It has been estimated by one London Law firm that in 2019, food recalls relating to allergens had grown by 20% over previous years.
This has been triggered in the main through changes driven by EU legislation, and some of the high-profile allergen related incidents reported through the media.
What is clear, is that with further regulatory changes such as Natasha’s Law due to come into force in 2021, the challenges and risks of recall are likely to grow unless suitable actions are taken by suppliers.
For companies that manufacture and distribute food products, the presence of allergens in raw materials, ingredients, recipes, and finished goods is a significant risk. If consumers are unknowingly exposed to allergens, they can become very ill or worse. Regulation and business ethics drive food businesses to track and control the allergens throughout their production and supply chain.
What is the driver for effective allergen management?
When it comes to allergen management, food companies are accountable to four sets of stakeholders, all with shared interests:
- Consumers depend on suppliers to safeguard their health and provide them with the necessary controls and information to avoid allergic reactions.
- Regulators implement varying sets of rules to enforce stringent allergen management across the industry. This is demonstrated by the regulations introduced through the EU in 2014, which stipulated clear identification of the key 14 allergens on any packaging, together with precautionary labelling as a consequence of potential cross contamination, all of which need to be understood in the local language.
- Business needs drive the need for effective risk mitigation and consumer protection using the most dependable, efficient, and economic methods.
- Companies purchasing from a producer or distributor of food items also need to have a guarantee that they have an effective allergen management system in place, or they increase their own risk and liability.
Avoiding allergens requires careful navigation by those people affected. Because some allergen inducing foods are commonly used in recipes for food products, it is not always easy for consumers with allergies to stay away from them. These consumers must rely on manufacturers and distributors to have tight controls over the use and presence of allergens in their products and facilities, and have the ability to disclose them accurately and in a timely manner so that consumers are well informed.
The need for risk management
Allergens do not change their properties during processing or handling and so if you manufacture, process, and distribute food items, allergen management needs to be present throughout all your business processes. It must range from product research and recipe planning, to purchasing, supplier management, storage, and transportation, to production and on to distribution, labelling, and the cleaning and sanitation of your equipment and facilities. If there is even a slight chance that your product contains allergens, you must be able to disclose it and warn consumers
The importance of the right technology
To manage and control allergens in your organisation you need to be able to add allergen information to any item, and track it through the mixing of recipes, the production of finished products, and to distribution and sales.
ERP solutions that focus on food will have features within the solution that support allergen management and keep the process reliable, simple and centralised, within a single resource, and free from redundancies. This means you don’t need to rely on systems or processes outside of ERP to manage allergens in your processes and have all the relevant information in one place and one ‘version of the truth’.
To create an allergen management plan to document and manage allergens and allergen exposure in your operation, it firstly needs a review of all the potential sources of allergens throughout your processes.
You need to specify each instance of possible allergen exposure with its likely consequences, including financial impacts and penalties. That will help create a strong business case for using technology and implementing process changes to address your own and your distributors’ or customers’ allergen-related risks.
Why an industry specific ERP solution is key
One of the elements that any food manufacturer needs to be aware of and in control of is the listing of ingredients in their product, and explicitly calling out any allergens.The question here is, how can a food manufacturing solution help you track allergens? The right solution needs to include the following features or functionalities if it is to provide effective management:
This is key to enabling tracking of ingredients, which is vital for listing out contents and identifying allergens. A solution which helps management of single as well as multi-level recipes with the list of ingredients, the process you follow, the proportions, special instructions, and other details, means you can capture and control all relevant information in one single place.
This can also be linked to any labelling to ensure that the relevant product label information can be driven directly from the recipe including batch references.
Although not directly relating to allergen management, this tool can help indirectly by providing updates on the demand and supply of finished goods enabling proper planning for the next production batch and ensuring that the food is shipped out well within accepted time limits and meeting expiry dates. This ensures that any allergies impacted by ingredient aging are not triggered.
The batch production functionality enables calculation of demand based on orders received. You can track batches with visual sequencing, maximize the use of equipment without affecting quality, and ensure that you have backward and forward traceability.
This allows you to keep a record of all the production data. You can also track raw materials, packaging details, and all other information around the product. This ensures that you manage the allocation of materials for production but also provides a way to keep track of the production process and therefore the quality.
Taking the next step...
Allergens have become a key focus area within the food industry due to the associated risks when consumers are exposed to them, having the right quality controls and management in place is the most critical factor.
Allergen management is one of the main aspects that will also add to the quality of the end product and its ingredients, therefore, a proven food process manufacturing solution is the only way to go.
ColumbusFood is an industry-specific ERP solution designed to help maintain the quality your customers love and expect.
Food is at the core of what we do — providing the right ingredients for a healthy ERP system. Want to find out more? Discover what Columbus Food could do for you here.