Unintended allergens can be introduced into your food business through many ways. This can become a major issue especially if your food production or retail site does not handle allergenic materials or produce allergenic products. In this post find out three common ways to prevent the introduction of unintended allergens in your food business.
Sources of unintended allergens
Before looking to prevent unintended allergens, it is a good idea to identify potential sources. These sources can be grouped into either:
- Supplier origin
- Contract manufacturing or handling
- Visitor or contractor activities
The average food business will be exposed to at least three of the above four risk sources. Let’s now look at three strategies that you can implement to prevent the introduction of unintended allergens.
Having extensive knowledge of the practices of your suppliers is integral to producing safe food. Find out from your suppliers what allergens are present their production sites. This could be as easy as making a telephone call, having them complete a supplier questionnaire or reviewing relevant audit documentation.
Even if you only receive non-allergenic materials or ingredients from them, you still need to consider the overall risk that their allergen control systems are robust.
Employee lunches and vending machines
Food items brought from home by employees, or those offered in vending machines can pose a risk for unintended allergens. Strict controls need to be implemented to avoid any type of cross-contact. These controls can include:
- No eating in food production areas
- No storage of personal items or food in production areas
- Effective hand washing after eating
- Bans on foods containing certain allergens eg. Peanuts
Knowing what employees are bringing on site is key. Take time to review staff room facilities, food cupboards, refrigerators and freezer units. You can also complete a vending machine audit using this template.
Maintenance chemicals can have hidden allergens. You may have identified and assessed all the maintenance chemicals on site but what about those used by contractors? External contractors may introduce unintended allergens by using chemicals that have not been adequately assessed. Your business can insist on only certain chemicals being used or complete a review of chemicals each time the contractor comes on-site.
Like any type of food safety hazard prevention, training and education is key. All staff should have a thorough understanding of basic allergen management principles. Floor staff can start with Understanding Food Allergens or for more advanced knowledge the HACCP Mentors Allergen Awareness online course.
Where do you stand?
Has your food business considered unintentional allergens as part of your hazard analysis and HACCP Plan? Share your answers and insights with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below this post.