Allergen Management

Tips and tricks to help with your food safety compliance

Food Recalls related to Undeclared Allergens

There is plenty of evidence to support that undeclared allergens are one of the greatest causes for food recalls world-wide. So ,what is going wrong? In the post, find out what the major causes are for undeclared allergens, how they are being detected and what you can do to protect your food business.

International Statistics for 2018

Before we get into the causes and solutions for undeclared allergen check out the 2018 statistics for major reporting agencies around the world. These figures relate to the 1 January 2018 – 31 December 2018 reporting period.

Reporting Agency

% of undeclared allergen recalls to total recalls

Number of Undeclared Allergen recalls / Total Recalls











The above figures are indicative and based on food recalls and withdrawals as reported on the respective websites.

Causes for Undeclared Allergens

The causes of undeclared allergen recalls can be separated into four key areas.

1. Lack of skills and knowledge around the requirements for labelling. This is where the people in charge of making labelling decisions in a business to do have adequate knowledge or an understanding of allergens or allergen labelling laws.

2. Supplier Verification issues. When developing labelling, your food business may rely on information provided by your raw material or raw ingredient suppliers. These suppliers may fail to pass on the correct allergen information about the raw material / ingredient.

3. Errors with packaging. Packing the product into the wrong packaging is a cause for concern as the correct allergens and ingredients may not be included in the ingredient statement. Another error can occur when incorrect claims are made on the packaging around “free-from” claims.

4. Unintentional cross-contact of allergens. This cause for undeclared allergens happens more often that you would think. This can happen at all stages of production in addition to raw material cross-contact and finished product cross-contact.

Detection and Notification

Do you know how are undeclared allergens detected? Customers complaining always seems to be the most common method. Customers may notify the food manufacturer directly or they may bi-pass this process completely and notify their local government agency.

Undeclared allergens may also be detected during routine testing completed by your food company, retailer, distributor, advocacy group or government agency.

Protect your food business

I have written before about how to prevent the introduction of unintended allergens and how to prevent food allergen cross contact in your food business. The protection strategies are not rocket science, and easy to implement.

It still remains fundamental that your business has a robust Allergen Management Program to help you avoid a food recall due to undeclared allergens. To learn more about developing an effective allergen management program, please click here.  

International Trade

Keep in mind that not all countries may have the same allergen declaration legal requirements that your county of manufacture does. This is particularly important if you are exporting food. If you are exporting to other countries, make sure that you confirm which allergens need to be declared on your food packaging and labels.

Share Yours Views

Has your food business ever had a food recall or withdrawals due to undeclared allergens? Share your insights and experience with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.


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