With the ever increasing awareness and importance of producing foods that are clearly labelled if a product contains known allergens, either as a deliberate ingredient or a possible contaminant, allergen risk assessments and management must be put in place. These systems will avoid the unintentional presence of allergens in products, with an evaluation of the likelihood of allergen cross-contamination throughout the production process from raw materials to product.
Existing Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) controls will assist with allergen management, avoiding cross contamination via segregation, cleaning and the use of separate utensils amongst others, so in many ways allergen management is an extension of programmes that are already in place.
Cleaning as part of allergen control is only required where that allergen is not an intentional ingredient for the food or beverage being produced. Generally, a protein, very small amounts of some allergens, such as peanut, can cause a reaction with varying severity but for some this may result in a fatal anaphylactic shock.
It is important to remember that cleaning practices which may meet the correct microbiological hygiene standards may not be sufficient to remove allergens from surfaces and equipment; unlike microbial contamination, allergens are generally unaffected by heat and unaffected by disinfectants. Validating a cleaning process will ensure their removal and that no cross contamination risk exists.
Specific allergen testing is widely recognised as offering the best way to make sure the cleaning programmes in place are successful, but these can be backed up with ATP and protein testing as appropriate.
Holchem has developed a new, innovative pathogen management plan to help the food and beverage industry understand the importance of effective, efficient and best practice pathogen control. Effective pathogen control requires senior management support, alongside specific input across technical, production, engineering and hygiene functions. Our plan underpins the important role each of these functions play in delivering the required best practice level of pathogen control in a business.
Pathogen control is focused on five key themes:
- Preventing day-to-day entry of the pathogen into the factory and especially into high hygiene areas using effective barriers.
- Ensuring the manufacturing infrastructure (building structure, equipment and utensils) cannot harbour and/or allow the growth of the pathogen.
- Ensuring production practices limit the cross-contamination vectors that can carry pathogens from sources to product or product contact surfaces.
- Designing an effective cleaning and disinfection programme that will kill or remove any pathogen that has entered the high hygiene areas within the current production time frame.
- Providing an environmental sampling programme which monitors and verifies pathogen control procedures and maximises early detection of a pathogen in the production environment to facilitate immediate control.
At Kersia UK, we are highly experienced in offering both proactive and reactive support in the control of pathogens. Proactively, we provide technical guidance which is available via our technical sales and service teams. We also offer a range of relevant, specialist courses on subjects which form a key part in delivering the optimum pathogen management procedures, including cleaning and disinfection programmes. We can also deliver reactive support to businesses that require immediate assistance in the management of pathogen issues, and the deployment of processing area decontamination strategies.
The basis of the pathogen management plan can also be used to manage other hazards, such as allergens, or brand protection issues, such as meat species DNA.