tion to the consumer, retrieval of the
recalled product, investigation of the
episode, etc. In a similar incident, a
company was saved from a potential
recall when a well-trained employee
noted that an ingredient was somewhat off-color. When management
was alerted, the company realized
that the supplier had sent baking
chips with peanut butter instead of
milk chocolate. One episode of this
sort pays for the cost of the allergen
training for employees.
In another recent recall, a company was auditing a supplier and realized that an ingredient should have
been labeled as milk-derived but had
not been. The level of milk in the
consumer product was small and no
consumer complaints were received.
Yet the company initiated a voluntary
recall of the product because they realized that it contained undeclared
milk. The absence of consumer complaints does not necessarily mean that
the product did not cause or have the
potential to cause allergic reactions.
In a third episode, a margarine
manufacturer put the incorrect lid on
tubs of margarine. As a result, the
product contained undeclared milk
from the flavoring ingredient at low
levels. While no consumer complaints
were received, the product was recalled because it contained undeclared milk.
Evaluating Cleaning Procedures
So how do you make sure that
your ingredient suppliers and copack-ers are avoiding allergens? Shared
equipment is used very commonly in
the food industry and oftentimes allergenic ingredients are processed on
the same equipment as nonallergenic
ingredients, thus cleaning between
these formulations is critical.
Allergen cleaning should be de-
fined as the absence of detectable al-
lergen residues on equipment
surfaces following cleaning. The best
detection methods are enzyme-linked
immunosorbent assays that are highly specific for allergen residues
such as the Neogen Alert, Reveal or Biokits, which are available for
many of the Big 8 foods. Positive controls should be run on the dirty
equipment before cleaning to assure that the method of choice is suit-
able for detection of residues of that particular allergen. Sometimes,
allergen loads are quite low with ingredients derived from the aller-
genic source, e.g., soy lecithin, so the residues will be undetectable
even before sanitation. Once a cleaning approach is validated by analy-
sis, the consistent application of that procedure should assure that the
product will not contain undeclared allergen residues.
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