Feature Partnership: Getting it right – the global allergy maze
Jürgen Schlösser takes a close look at the IFS Food Standard and considers how pending guidance around allergen safety management will offer further clarity to producers and safer food for those with allergies.
Food allergies affect millions of people across the world. To protect those with food hypersensitivity, most countries have governing bodies which enforce regulations that require food processing companies to list ingredients on packaged foods and beverages.
Despite this, every year there are approximately 300 complaints and recalls in the European Union alone, due to incorrectly declared allergens. These include errors in the declaration of allergens on the label, such as the allergen name not being clearly stated or explanatory terms such as ‘milk’ or ‘fish’ missing. On the other hand, allergens that were presumably discovered analytically and not declared in the list of ingredients create the suspicion that an added allergen was forgotten and consequently lead to the product being recalled.
Often producers are surprised because they did not expect that ingredient (allergen) to be present and do not know which of the raw materials and semi-finished products it came from. If the producer cannot find the source of entry for that allergen, it will cause them to question the allergen analyses. Spontaneous allergen analyses, even by the authorities, are not always 100 percent accurate, as sometimes there isn’t a suitable reference sample that can indicate whether the result found is correct for the food in question.
To assist with the issues encountered by members, the International Food Standard (IFS) is considering writing guidelines against which allergen management systems can be checked to enhance safety measures.