Food Production: Three Testing Guidelines for Your Allergen Management Plan
The problem posed by allergens in the food industry is significant. In general, allergenic foods do not trigger an adverse reaction in most of the population. However, some consumers will experience mild to severe immune responses when exposed to products containing ingredients like nuts, milk and shellfish. Therefore, if you are involved in food production, you should plan for allergen testing to identify problematic components that could cause harm. Here are some essential guidelines to keep in mind when establishing an allergen testing protocol for your business.
Know the Complete Allergen Sources
When planning for allergen testing, you should assess your food production setup and determine the allergens in your processing environment. The process should begin with the classification of known allergens. Check the ingredients and identify the specific components recognised as allergens. You should be particularly cautious with your identification process if your business handles processed ingredients instead of raw agricultural produce. Do not make assumptions about the provided materials because allergenic components like soy or gluten might be added as fillers.
You should also address the issue of unknown allergens which are not purposely incorporated into the food production chain. For example, your ingredients might be contaminated during transportation, handling and storage. If your items come in contact with unknown machinery, products or people, allergen cross-contamination could occur.
Understand Testing Procedures
You should choose a testing procedure to identify the allergens within your production environment. The most critical issue to consider is the specific techniques suitable for your needs. The common methods include immunoassay, lateral flow devices, polymerase chain reaction and mass spectrometry. When planning your testing work, consider the benefits of in-house or expert testing services. In general, a specialised laboratory will have experts with the tools and skills needed for allergen assessment. Therefore, this option is favourable for a facility without testing equipment or in-house analysis experts. However, you can also choose to invest in the resources for your company if you have a flexible budget. Moreover, inquire about allergen testing kits from a specialist supplier of similar goods.
Establish a Management Procedure
Finally, when testing for allergens, think about the desired outcome for your food production line. The goal will determine how to handle the results obtained from the tests. For instance, if you are aiming for allergen-free products, you will need to think about eliminating the foreign allergens. This process might involve checking the supply chain, improving cleaning protocols and validation of tests. Alternatively, the results on allergens can be included in a label to warn the consumers.
Contact an allergen testing service near you to learn more.