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Managing allergens in food manufacturing

Since the latest additions in 2014, the FSA Allergen Information Rules (EU FIC) requiring declaration of 14 major allergens (including fish, nuts, milk and mustard seeds) have been putting the food manufacturing industry under pressure. While essential for improving the safety of consumers, for the manufacturer, the legislation can mean additional checks, rigorous cleaning regimes and more time-consuming paper work, all of which can put additional strain on already-stretched staff resources.

The pressure to comply with the EU FIC legislation also creates uncertainty: do staff understand what it means and do they complete all the required checks to ensure that the regulated ingredients are managed safely? Poor management of allergens, from cross-contamination to inaccurate labelling in packages, can put lives at risk and pose a serious threat to business’ reputation and profitability.

A well-established food hygiene management routine can help bring peace of mind, especially in large facilities which deal with a wide range of potential allergens. A simple way of improving staff efficiencies when conducting these additional checks and ensuring hygiene processes are carried out is by utilising a digital food hygiene management system such as Checkit. Digital checklists help staff keep track of all the required checks, when they are due and what needs to be done, and perform the tasks quickly without having to spend time manually filling out paperwork. The Checkit technology will also help managers gain greater visibility over the status of the manufacturing facility, as the cloud-based records can be accessed remotely and alerts can be sent if any checks are missed or results are outside the set parameters, indicating a potential risk.

As the EU FIC regulation also affects supermarkets, restaurants and other foodservice businesses, a manufacturer with a clear allergen management process is ideally positioned to help its customers comply with this and other legislation. Recent research by Trade Interchange revealed that nearly 70 per cent of food service operators feared not complying with allergy legislation, many highlighting the lack of reliable allergen information from suppliers. This opens up a real competitive advantage for those manufacturers who are able to demonstrate that a transparent and reliable process for managing allergens is in place and who take the steps to ensure that the crucial information is easily available for customers.

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