Australia has the highest rate of food allergies in the world, with an estimated 10% of infants, 4-8% of children, and approximately 2% of adults having a food allergy. The management of allergens within the food manufacturing industry is critical. Some food allergies can cause severe reactions that require emergency medical treatment and could be life-threatening. Having an undeclared allergen in your food products will also lead to product recalls, which are costly and can damage your reputation.
Your responsibilities as a food manufacturing business
The only way for people with a food allergy to manage their allergy is to completely avoid the allergen. As a food manufacturing business, you must comply with a range of statutory requirements that govern production processes and product quality. It is a requirement under the Australian Food Standards Code to declare on the product labels whether the product contains any allergens. Common food allergens include milk, peanuts, tree nuts, egg and cereals containing gluten.
Managing allergens as part of your food safety program
Under food safety requirements, food manufacturing businesses are required to have an allergen management plan in place as part of their food safety program. There are several control points along the food manufacturing process where allergen management should be considered.
- Ingredient storage
- Production scheduling
- Food contact surfaces
- Non-food contact surfaces
- Sampling and testing
- Product labelling
To ensure that food doesn’t become unintentionally cross-contaminated, your plan should include details on labelling, segregation and storage of food. Staff training on the importance of allergen management will make the process much more manageable.
Another powerful tool to minimise the risk of cross-contamination is an effective cleaning plan. By using appropriate cleaning methods, allergens should be removed from surfaces and equipment.
Cleaning process to reduce cross-contamination
To effectively manage allergens in the food manufacturing industry, your business should have an in-depth cleaning plan. This plan should include cleaning procedures and products used to remove allergens from manufacturing equipment. Cleaning processes that are considered suitable for eliminating other microbial contaminants may not be adequate to eliminate traces of allergens. As such, a dedicated cleaning process for allergen elimination should be developed.
Food manufacturers must clean and disinfect all surfaces and equipment used to prepare or process food, to a standard of allergen elimination. Cleaning should be done at least once per shift, and more frequently if required. Your cleaning team should be trained to use the most appropriate cleaning methods and must follow the manufacturer’s instructions on any equipment or products used for cleaning.
To further ensure that food is safe for consumers who may have allergies, your plan should include a method for checking the compliance of the cleaning and segregation processes. This should include a testing schedule to test surfaces for allergens.
Appropriate cleaning methods
Several cleaning methods may be employed to assist in allergen management.
- If a surface becomes inadvertently exposed to an allergen, it will require scrubbing, soaking, pressure washing, foaming, or a combination of these methods.
- Wet cleaning, especially foam cleaning, is highly effective in allergen management. However in areas where dry ingredients are used and wet cleaning is not appropriate, using specialised cleaning solutions is effective.
- CIP (clean-in-place) processes are highly effective in achieving consistent cleaning results on enclosed surfaces.
At Orbit Cleaning Services Australia, we have over 30 years of experience providing tailored cleaning solutions for food manufacturing facilities around the country. We are happy to offer cleaning services that meet your budget, facility requirements and operation schedule. Cleaning food manufacturing to support allergen management, and we hold the certifications necessary to meet relevant food manufacturing standards.
Contact us on 1300 660 699 for your obligation-free quote.