What are Food Allergies?
Food allergy is an immune system response when it comes in contact with certain foods. These substances that trigger allergic reactions are called allergens. Allergen containing foods are not harmful for the majority of people; but they may have a precipitate response to some people. Most common known allergens are milk and peanuts. Sometimes very small quantities of allergen consumption can cause allergic reactions, often immediately after ingestion. Allergic reactions to food can range greatly from mild to severe, including the life-threatening condition of Anaphylaxis (An acute allergic reaction to an allergen to which the body has become hypersensitive.) which can occur in response to any allergen.
Being allergic to any specific food is a health condition, so people with food allergies need to be careful in selection of food for consumption. As the only way to prevent food allergic reactions is to avoid allergens, food industry plays an important role in protection of consumer health.
Major Allergens are –
Importance of Allergen Management in Food Industry:
Food allergies are now recognized as a food safety issue. The management of food allergens is a shared responsibility between consumers, government agencies and food manufacturers. Regarding this issue, many national and international regulations are addressing the importance of allergen management and set forth requirements to be met by food manufacturers. On a global basis, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has established a list of common allergenic foods. Each country may have their own rules regarding labeling of allergens. For example, the EU legislation lists fourteen food allergens which need to be declared when they are used in packaged foods. The list consists of cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, molluscs, eggs, fish, peanuts, nuts, soybeans, milk, celery, mustard, sesame seeds, lupin and sulphites. However, the United States regulations require food manufacturers to list the eight most common ingredients that trigger food allergies; these include milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. These ingredients are responsible for 90 percent of the food allergic reactions.
The international standard for food safety management systems, ISO 22000:2007, emphasizes that allergens are food safety hazards. And according to it, organizations are required to control food safety hazards, including allergens, in order to ensure that food they produce is safe.
Currently, there is no cure for food allergies, thus food-allergic consumers must avoid the food to which they are allergic to.
How to cope with allergen management?
Food safety management systems have become mandatory requirements for most of the countries worldwide.
Food businesses that have implemented their food safety systems in alignment with ISO 22000, have already taken actions towards managing allergens as it is a prerequisite program required by this international standard. The technical specification, ISO 22002-1:2009, specifies requirements for establishing, implementing and maintaining an allergen management program. This program is prepared based on the scientific approach of risk analysis, the HACCP principles, by assessing allergen hazards.
As concerns over public health related to food allergies continue to grow, food industry has boosted its efforts to maintain the management food allergens. Besides national legislations that regulate labelling of food allergens in many countries, other international standards and voluntary guidelines have been developed to help organizations to effectively prevent food allergen incidents.
Responsibility of a Food Company in Allergen Management:
Components of an Allergen Plan:
Allergen Control and Management:
Any Allergen Control Plan should address the below minimum requirements:
How will allergens be listed on a food label?
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