Do you need an allergen specification document?

Anyone connected with food production and retail should have an allergen specification document. Create yours with these three steps.

You put care and thought into the ingredients of your products. Understandably you want your food to be as tasty as possible. But do you really know what’s in those ingredients that combine to make your goods? It’s essential to be aware of the precise allergenic content of your ingredients and raw materials - whether you created them yourself or sourced them from elsewhere.

Allergens need to be separated for obvious reasons. The majority of product recalls are caused by the presence of undeclared allergens. And the consequences could be severe if consumer health is compromised by exposure to an allergen that wasn’t identified. In short: you need to be on top of the allergen content of your food.

Here are three pointers for determining the allergen status of your ingredients.

1. You need to know what’s arriving on your site

It sounds obvious. But you need to know exactly what ingredients and raw materials you are working with on your site - and which of these contain allergenic materials. Create an ingredients list. Then for each ingredient state the names and quantities of the raw materials used.

Tedious? Perhaps. Important? Invaluable. Understanding these ratios early on will make it far easier to calculate the ratios present in your products once they leave your site. And sometimes even though allergens may be present, their ratios may be so small that they do not need to be declared under legislation.

2. Provenance is the watchword

We live in a world trussed by global supply chains. If you are sourcing ingredients the chances are high that they have already passed through several different hands. Sometimes it’s impossible to track the provenance of your ingredients. But at the very least you need to ask your suppliers two questions.

Firstly you need to enquire about the allergenic content of their ingredients. Send them your allergen specification document to complete. (Different manufacturers have different methodologies for the identification of allergens.) If allergens are present, find out which specific ingredient is affected and what proportion of the raw material the allergen comprises.

Secondly you need to know what other allergenic materials your supplier processes on their site. This will help you judge the risk of cross-contamination. Pay specific attention to allergenic ingredients handled on the same processing line as the ingredients you have purchased. Ask what controls are in place to prevent cross-contamination. If you are not satisfied that your supplier has taken steps to mitigate the risk, you may wish to declare the allergen present in your product.

3. Create a list of allergy contents

You now have your allergen specifications in place. Great stuff. Next it’s time to list the allergen status of each ingredient. This is usually a list of the 14 allergenic ingredients listed within EU legislation, though if you are supplying to countries outside the EU be aware that legislation may differ.

Again, by knowing the product makeup early on, you can determine the levels found in the final product and the labelling requirements when it comes to packaging or selling your product over-the-shelf to the end-consumer.

Over to you...

Getting a solid framework in place for the identification of allergens in your ingredients will stand you in good stead for avoiding eye-wateringly costly product recalls. That’s great for peace of mind. And great for business security too. Sure, it can sometimes take a bit of detective work. But in an age where consumers are sceptical of food provenance, the producers that can vouch for their ingredients stand to gain. Do it.

Posted on 13/06/2017