The prevalence of different food allergies all over the world is an extremely frightening concept for businesses to deal with. As more and more people become diagnosed with different food allergies, food manufacturers, supervisors and handlers are growing increasingly vigilant in order to protect their consumers from experiencing potentially severe allergic reactions. Following are some important tips regarding allergens:
Identify the most common allergens
The very first step you need to take to make sure that you control the potential allergens in your storage area is to identify them. There are eight main foods that cause more allergic reactions than any other. These are; eggs, milk, soybeans, shellfish, fish, peanuts, tree nuts and wheat. However, even if you are not storing any products that contain any of these eight ingredients, it is essential to enforce strict policies for food contamination in your storage area as there are many other allergens that you need to consider.
Your warehouse must prioritise documenting, developing and implementing strict policies in order to control allergens in your facility. Non-allergens must be completely segregated from allergens and you should have clearly-labelled, designated storage racks for all of your ingredients. If you choose to store non-allergens and allergens on the same shelves, the foods that contain allergens should be stored on the lowest shelf. Foods such as cartons of eggs pose a high risk for contamination as they could fall onto the food items underneath. These procedures should limit any top-down contamination and you should never attempt to store two different allergens on the same shelf. Every minor detail in your storage process should be considered as any mishap could lead to serious illness or even death.
Having specific equipment dedicated to each allergen group is a popular strategy that a number of food production and storage facilities employ to reduce cross-contamination. This is an efficient way of storing allergens as it negates the need for you to undertake a meticulous cleaning procedure every time to switch products around. If you are unable to justify purchasing dedicated equipment, you could attempt to buy products in larger batches so that you do not have to sterilise and clean your equipment as often.
Train your employees
All of your members of staff that come into contact with your product should be meticulously trained in transferring allergens into your dedicated storage areas from loading docks. It is also extremely important that all of your members of staff are aware of the importance of cleaning up spillages as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. Your staff may not be aware that allergens can be spread easily throughout the workplace on the wheels of trucks and forklifts and even your worker’s shoes. If you want to be extra cautious, you could even instruct your staff members to wear different coloured uniforms to identify which allergen they are handling. This might be an expensive method but it will ensure that there is no risk of cross-contamination from clothing items. Providing basic training regarding food safety and allergens for all your members of staff would give them a deeper understanding of why you are taking certain steps to avoid the spread of allergens.
Cross-contamination of allergens between all of your food items can occur at any stage in your supply chain, due to incorrect formulation, airborne dust, human error, incorrect or incomplete packaging, poor storage and much more. Many of these potential hazards will be out of your control, but it is essential that everyone on your team understands that products can be contaminated at any point in your supply chain. It is advisable for you to establish a policy for contamination avoidance at all times for all of your members of staff to adhere to.
The Australian Institute of Accreditation is the leading provider of nationally accredited online food safety courses. For more information about our accredited food handling and food safety supervisor courses, there are several ways that you can get in touch with us. You can either send us a text message at 0429 544 170 (text only, no voice), give us a call on 1300 662 750 or fill out our online form and a member of our team will respond to your enquiry as quickly as possible.