The importance of allergen segregation cannot be overstated. It not only relates to the reputation of your business, but also the health and well-being of the people buying and eating your product. At first glance, everyday issues like the safe storage of equipment and the training of your operatives may not seem like matters of life and death, but with 1 in 5 people with allergies living in fear of an anaphylactic shock, this simply isn’t the case.

As you will know, there is a growing demand for ‘Free From’ products that cater to people who are at risk from allergens. After all, the number of people living with allergies is rising by around 5% every year.* Consequently, there has never been a better time for you to evaluate your current approach to segregation. In this guide, we will be offering five ways for you to do just that.

There are valuable takeaways in each section, but you can also click on the links below to skip to the point most relevant to your needs.

1. Question your suppliers

Although it will be tempting to jump straight into evaluating the activity on your factory floor, you should first question the provenance of your ingredients. After all, even if you eliminate all of the risks at your site, these efforts will be rendered pointless if your produce has already been tainted with allergens further back in the supply chain. That is why you need to talk to your suppliers about the allergen content of their ingredients and their own approach to allergen segregation.

Here are just a few of the questions you should be asking:

  • What allergens do you process?
  • What proportion of the raw material does the allergen comprise?
  • What ingredients are affected?
  • What controls are in place to prevent cross-contamination?
  • Do you process any other allergens that aren’t tied to our ingredients, but have the potential to cross-contaminate?

To ensure the information you are given is accurate, you will need to conduct stringent testing before the ingredients reach your production line. To make this easier, you should insist that any ingredients and raw materials are delivered pre-segregated. Another important step is to reject any deliveries if there are warning signs of cross-contamination. You should also encourage your operatives to emulate your high standards.

2. Carry out internal audits

Before making any major decisions about your site’s approach to allergen management, you should carry out the first of many internal audits. This may sound like a lot of extra stress and hassle, but internal audits actually make life easier in the long run. Instead of being caught out by glaring flaws or even just minor non-conformances when the stakes are much higher, you can identify any areas for improvement while you are still in control of the impact.

ambient high care

Although the consequences won’t be as severe as they would be with an external audit, you should try to investigate your site with the same rigour and standards. You could even consider asking a third-party auditor or colleague from a sister site to conduct the process for you. The focus of these investigations should be allergen management, the risk of cross-contamination, and how your factory measures up against the latest standards and specifications.

3. Enhance your colour-coding policy

Colour coding is a key part of establishing an effective allergen management strategy. As the name suggests, it involves using different coloured equipment for different types of allergens. Having a visible difference between the equipment used for allergen and non-allergen processes, along with the equipment used between the different allergens, will help to prevent the cross-contamination of your ingredients. If you are unsure of the best approach to implementing or enhancing a colour-coding policy, you can click here to access a comprehensive guide.

Colour coding could also help to drive accountability across your site, as it will become very obvious if an operative is using say a purple brush head with a yellow handle in a section that should only be housing blue equipment. Instead of sub par standards flying under the radar, you will be able to clearly identify any breeches of procedure. This will only be enhanced by the introduction of Shadow boards to accompany your colour-coded equipment, as your operatives will not only know what utensil to use for a job, but they will also know where this equipment needs to be stored.

4. Set up designated spill stations

Even with all the correct procedures in place, your site is likely to be faced with an allergen spill at some point in the future. Accidents happen, but it’s how you deal with them that matters and the answer is to a two pronged approach.

First, you need to make sure you have the right clean up tools at your site. Here at Klipspringer, we have developed a range of designated allergen spill kits to suit this purpose. These kits are available in 11 different colours, allowing them to be easily integrated into your colour-coding plan. In addition to reducing the risk of cross-contamination, these kits could also help you to limit factory downtime, as your team will be able to quickly manage any spills without compromising on safety. There are three different options within the range. We’ve listed the contents of each kit below and you can click on the images if you would like to learn more.

Allergen Spillage Solids Kit

  • Lobby pan x1
  • Soft/medium bristle hand brush x1
  • Large hand spatula x1
  • Flexible bowl scraper x1
  • Blue CD01 K-Lite ¼ fold cleaning cloth x5
  • Blue disposable nitrile gloves (x3 pairs)
  • Spill tape (10m)
  • Solid spills breakage procedure x1

Allergen Spillage Powder Kit

  • Lobby pan x1
  • Soft/medium bristle hand brush x1
  • Crevice brush x1
  • Blue CD01 K-Lite ¼ fold cleaning cloth x5
  • Blue disposable nitrile gloves (x3 pairs)
  • Spill tape (10m)
  • Allergen powder spillage procedure x1
  • Blue disposable overshoes x1 pair

Allergen Spillage Liquids Kit

  • Production bucket x1
  • Production bucket lid x1
  • Fodder scoop x1
  • Flexible bowl scraper x1
  • Large hand spatula x1
  • Spill absorption pads x2
  • Blue CD01 K-Lite ¼ fold cleaning cloth x5
  • Blue disposable nitrile gloves (x3 pairs)
  • Spill tape (10m)
  • Allergen liquids spillage procedure x1
  • Blue disposable overshoes x1 pair

The next step is to ensure the spill kits at your site are easily accessible and properly managed. Doing so will make it a lot easier for you to secure full compliance, train up your operatives, and reduce factory downtime. Our recommended approach to this task is to set up bespoke Shadow boards for your spill kits.

As with the spill kits themselves, Shadow boards can be colour-coded to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. An easily identifiable colour will also help your operatives to find what they need in a rush and will be particularly valuable if your site employs workers that don’t have English as their first language.

Shadow boards can also help you to avoid other non conformances that relate to allergens. One example is equipment being stored in an inappropriate manner, with different items touching or dropping residue onto each other. In direct response to this risk, our bespoke boards have been approved by experienced designers who are aware of the recommended placement of utensils and the suggested spacing. This solution doesn’t just have to be for your spill kits, it can be used for all of your equipment – reducing the risk of cross-contamination at every level.

 

5. Communicate with your workforce

The final step is to develop a comprehensive training strategy that can be rolled out alongside any changes to your site. Even the best procedures and equipment can’t compensate for a team that is lacking in understanding and accountability, so you need to think carefully about the training of your operatives – finding new and innovative ways to communicate with your workforce.

Ongoing Training

Training your operatives to adhere to new standards is one thing, but it is quite another to maintain this level of communication – doing everything in your power to keep your team up to date and in the know. One quick session is not going to have the desired impact, so you will need to recap training sessions on a regular basis, especially if there are new employees or agency staff working at your site. You should also rehearse different scenarios with your team, making sure they know the correct procedure and understand the importance of consumer safety.

Allocate Responsibility

Although your entire workforce will play a part in the management of allergens at your site, it’s important that you allocate responsibility to key team members. This is a great way to drive accountability and engagement across your site. It will also help you to ensure standards don’t slip the second management is off the factory floor, as there will be responsibility at every level, not just the top.

Visual Management

It’s far easier for the brain to process images than words. This is especially true for employees that don’t have English as their first language or operatives that struggle with their eyesight. That is why you should use visual displays to support your allergen control policy. Using visuals to make it clear that a product contains allergens such as egg, wheat, and dairy should further safeguard your site against cross-contamination and those all important non conformances.

That brings us to the end of our guide to allergen segregation. We hope that you now have at least five ideas for enhancing your operation and raising standards in regards to allergen control. After all, this really is one of the most important steps that you can take when it comes to future-proofing your site and protecting your customers. Determined to support you in your efforts to manage allergens effectively, the Klipspringer team is always on hand to offer further support and guidance. You can connect with us on 01473 461800 or sales@klipspringer.com. Another option is to fill out the contact form below. 

* Statistics from the London Allergy and Immunology Centre, The Food Standards Agency, and Allergy UK

If you would like further guidance relating to allergen segregation, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below to arrange a free consultation.