Summary

The management of food allergens in the food industry is a complex and time-consuming process, but one that is essential. The main aim of an allergen-handling process is to be able to provide accurate information to sufferers to enable them to choose a suitable diet with confidence. The detailed knowledge of the allergens used in a particular product, on a specific production line and in the factory site is the first step in assisting sufferers.

The key steps in managing food in food manufacture are, firstly, to understand the constituents of all raw materials in detail, secondly to check all procedures used during the manufacture of the product for any risks of cross-contamination of allergens, and finally to provide accurate information to consumers of the product regarding the allergens the product contains. All steps need to be undertaken thoroughly to ensure that even trace amounts of allergens are detected. The processes involved in Good Manufacturing Practice and HACCP studies assist in this process.

It is well known that sufferers of anaphylactic shock can react to extremely small quantities of allergens and it is for these people in particular that information provided about the suitability of the product for particular diets must be accurate and up to date. The labelling of packaged food provides the best communication tool, and the onus must be on the sufferer to check the labels of products to ensure suitability for their diet. Manufacturers must take responsibility to ensure that the labelling accurately reflects the ingredients in the product and any allergens that may be present through cross-contamination during the manufacturing process.

The communication of the presence of allergens in food sold loose without ingredients lists and food sold through catering outlets will continue to be a critical area. Continually raising the awareness of allergen control in these areas is a key task to ensure that those who suffer food allergies are able to select foods and meals with confidence.

The control of allergens in future will continue to be an important aspect of quality control for all aspects of food manufacturing, including large-scale manufacture, smaller-scale operations and catering processes.

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