Allergen control standards for the food industry

 

Sadly, the Anaphylaxis Campaign's standards described below did not get the industry support that the campaign had hoped they would attract and less than a year after it was launched they withdrew it.

While the standard itself was well-respected and more comprehensive than the British Retail Consortium (BRC) global standard in terms of allergen management, many manufacturers were reluctant to spend extra cash on training and accreditation, while the logo associated with it also proved controversial.

However, some standards to work to were still desperately needed by the food industry and, at Food Manufacture conference this month, the British Standards Industry (BSI) announced that they would be resurrecting and administering the AC's standard. Said a BSI spokesman: 'We feel that it’s a good standard to build on rather than creating a new standard from scratch and it fits well with our existing food safety work. We are currently sorting out the transition process with The Anaphylaxis Campaign.'

Courtesy of Food Manufacture

 


2008 - Michelle Berriedale-Johnson reports:

One of the hardest things for budding manufacturers and caterers working with free-from foods to deal with has been the singular dearth of information or guidance. No agreed ‘safe’ levels for gluten, dairy, nut etc, no regulations or guidelines as to how to minimise contamination risk in the factory or the catering kitchen, no real understanding of the manufacturer or caterer’s liability if a customer has a reaction.

Well, there are still no agreed ‘safe’ levels for allergens (although Codex has just set a new limit for gluten – see FM website) because neither researchers nor clinicians know how tiny a fraction of an allergen will set off a reaction in a super-sensitive person. And even if they did, it is unlikely that there would be equipment sensitive enough to detect it (see Soya in Chicken). However, two new pieces of guidance, from the Anaphylaxis Campaign and the Food Standards Agency, should make manufacturers’ and caterers' lives somewhat easier.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign Standard to Increase Trust in Information about Allergens in Food
Manufacturing

This is the rather unwieldy title of the Anaphylaxis Campaign's new guidelines, put together over the last two years in conjunction with, and funded by, the Food Standards Agency.
As they say in their introduction, manufacturers ‘have desperately needed a recognised standard of food production which would provide confidence in the allergy information communicated about a food item.’
They also felt that, if their guidance were to be taken up and used by industry, they needed to provide a mark of certification for manufacturers who adhered to their standards, and which would promote confidence in those manufacturers’ products among allergic customers.

Certification...
Because auditing and certification is quite a long process consumers should not expect to see the logo on products for some months.

Meanwhile, the guidelines cover risk and risk assessment when dealing with allergens; management procedures, audits and reviews; the manufacturing environment from the intake of raw materials through production to the storage and eventual distribution of the final product; the packaging and labelling of the products (including the dreaded ‘may contain’ labelling) and communication with customers other than via the pack.

Certification will be by an independent certification body.
The Campaign is making an introductory offer of £65 for a single copy of the standard – £100 for two and £200 for five.
If you want to know more contact www.highfield.co.uk 0845 2260350 who have worked with the campaign on the
project, or the campaign at
www.anaphylaxis.org.uk
01252 546100

Guidance for Caterers

The Food Standards Agency’s new guidance for caterers and those selling food loose is somewhat more compact but covers an equally important area – and one in which the only guidance on offer to date has been Foods Matter’s own catering manuals
(www.allergycateringmanual.com) and Hazel Gowland’s training videos (www.allergytraining.com).
The FSA’s guidance comes as a poster or as a free download from their website.

It emphasises the seriousness of allergy, lists and illustrates the main allergens and where they are to be found and then gives seven ‘tips’ for safe allergen handling. These include the importance of checking ingredients, knowing your ingredients, keeping recipe information up to date, cleaning worktops, hands etc before making food for an allergic customer and so on.
Let us hope that they manage to get it well distributed through the catering trade.
To view more of their allergy information checkout www.food.gov.uk/allergy

More articles on free-from foods

First Published in Febuaray 2010


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