Incorrect allergen information and mix-ups will continue to be the main causes of product recalls in 2018. The Dutch food industry is now paying more attention to allergen management.
Recalls are increasingly discovered and reported by the producer himself. SimplyOK is one of the initiatives that contributes to this. The reinforcement of BRC, IFS and FSSC 2200 in the field of allergen management is also an important factor in raising awareness. On the other hand, the number of recalls concerning allergens is still increasing. Apparently, companies are more aware of the problem, but at the same time not yet able to prevent problems on all occasions.
The NVWA published a total of 103 food-related recalls in 2018. In 41 (40%) of these cases, allergens were the cause of the recall, followed by pathogenic bacteria with 34 reports. Foreign parts and chemical contaminants were less frequently the reason for a product recall (14 and 9 times respectively).
In figure 1: analysis of the food recalls 2018
A good allergen management system consists of 5 basic pillars:
1. Raw material information from the supplier
2. Recipe management
3. Label design (based on pillars 1 and 2)
4. Prevent the mix-up of raw materials, semi-finished products or labels. In case of mix-ups, the information on the label does not correspond to the composition of the packaged product.
5. Prevent cross-contamination/accidental presence and carry out quantitative risk assessment (based on VITAL®).
Cross-contamination with allergens proved to be the cause of an allergen recall only in a limited number of cases. It is striking that in 2018 confusion (pillar 4) was the most important reason (55%) for a report. This was closely followed by incorrect product information (32%, pillars 1 to 3). Manufacturers will have to improve their allergen management by optimising not only the focus on hygiene, but also the supported processes and information flows.
Eleven of the fourteen legal allergens were reported in the 2018 reports. Milk, gluten and celery were among the top three of the most common allergens reported during the 2018 recalls (11, 8 and 7 times respectively). On top of that, mustard comes in second place, of which there were no reports in 2017.
Meat products and preparations were most often the subject of an allergen recall (12 times), followed by the product group meal packages (9 times) and bread (6 times). In four of the meal packages, the package was composed of fresh vegetables and sauce.
Not all allergen-related recalls could be found on the NVWA site. Six reports came from other sources. However, this is less than the year before. The NVWA also placed the reports much quicker. Food-producing companies in the Netherlands are on the right track, but there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to introducing good preventive actions regarding allergen management.
Nutrilab, in collaboration with Wageningen University BU Bioscience, has developed a method to measure >21 allergens in 1 run with LC-MSMS. The great advantage of this method is that it significantly reduces the cost of analysing multiple allergens in a sample.
If you would like to know more about managing allergen risk, please contact us, we will be happy to help you.
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