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Food Sensitivity, Food Allergens and Food Allergy Testing: The Importance of an Effective Allergen Management Plan

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Between the year 2005 and 2014 Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) initiated 586 product recalls, with 172 due to undeclared allergen.

The 10 substances identified by FSANZ in standard 1.2.3 which caused concern for allergic and sensitive individuals are:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Soybeans
  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Gluten
  • Fish
  • Crustacean
  • Sesame seeds and
  • Added sulphites.

    To prevent any unintentional presence of these substances in products, an effective allergen management plan and implementation is required.

Unlike microorganisms where processing controls such as temperature can be applied to reduce risk, there is no processing control to reduce the allergen level. Therefore, allergic individuals rely upon mandatory product labelling requirements to avoid the food allergen.

When a specific allergen is an ingredient in every product on site and the labelling reflects the allergen, the risk is minimised and there is not any control required by the manufacturer.

However, if the allergen is an ingredient in only some of the products on site, then the cross contact or contamination risk must be validated, monitored and food allergy testing implemented.

When performing a risk analysis (in the development of your allergen management plan), the 2 key points for consideration are:

The number and type of allergens present and
Whether there are dedicated lines for allergen and non-allergen product.
If there are no dedicated lines, then whenever possible the non allergenic products should be scheduled for production before allergenic products. A major clean-down after running the allergenic product should be performed and an ongoing verification of the effectiveness of the cleaning process undertaken.

Analytical testing of raw material, product and hygiene swabs forms an important component of your allergen management plan. Testing for food allergens is a valuable tool when used as part of a risk–based approach to allergen management. Test results can provide assurance and verification of critical controls within a comprehensive risk management program.

A risk based approach for representative sampling should be applied given that distribution of cross contact allergens is unlikely to be homogenous. The nature of cross contact allergens is that they may concentrate at the start of a production run or randomly throughout the run. For this reason, it is important that ongoing monitoring is performed – as each result applies only to the specific sample tested and does not guarantee future samples will be free of allergen.

The collection of samples for laboratory analysis should be done very carefully to prevent potential cross contamination. Ideally, a separate sample should be supplied that does not require any other microbiological and chemical tests so that it can be processed appropriately with our dedicated allergen sample preparation techniques.

Finally, it is also important to take into account that some products are not suitable for ELISA based allergen tests and should be given appropriate consideration and planning (samples high in sugar or salt, gum or fermented products).

Symbio Laboratories have an extensive offering of NATA accredited allergen tests and specialist industry experienced staff.

We can discuss your allergen testing requirements, conduct a testing audit and implement a testing plan for you.

Symbio Laboratories – Your Food Allergen Management Plan Experts

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