AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND – The Allergen Bureau, the peak industry body representing food industry allergen management, has launched a guide to assist agri-food businesses in mitigating allergen cross-contamination.

The Bureau’s Sampling and Testing working group has also come up with a questionnaire that industry can use to determine the level of risk that may be associated with raw materials, as well as learn how the development of sampling plans can be guided by risk and how facilities can discern the presence and prevalence of allergen cross-contact.

“The leading value proposition of the Allergen Bureau is tackling industry challenges that are bigger than one company alone, and to be known as an organisation that can help solve problems that companies can’t solve themselves,” said Lisa Clark, Manager, Allergen Bureau.

Identifying the allergens present in foods and ingredients can be complex, requiring consultation with suppliers and obtaining detailed raw material specifications.

By ensuring that all allergens, including those that are unexpected, are identified and included in the product risk assessment, industry can meet regulatory requirements, mitigate the risk of allergen recalls and withdrawals, and provide important information to consumers with food allergies.

The guide titled, “Assessing Agricultural Cross-Contact 2022”, coupled with the raw material risk matrix questionnaire, enables businesses to identify risks and take action.

The risk rating can be used to inform sampling approaches for verification activities to understand the presence and prevalence of cross-contact. The new resource can also help the Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labeling Program (VITAL) risk assessment process.

The Bureau’s goal of developing the VITAL Program was to provide a risk-based methodology for food manufacturers to use in assessing the impact of allergen cross contact and to provide appropriate precautionary allergen labelling (PAL).

Relevant to all areas of the food industry, the new guide will be a useful tool for growers, primary producers, food ingredient manufacturers, importers, suppliers, food business operators (FBOs), and importers of packaged foods.

The Allergen Bureau believes that the ability for industry to work together in a pre-competitive space is vital to innovation and problem-solving. It points to the development of its new guide as an example of pre-competitive collaboration in practice.

The development of the guide took place over a period of nearly four years, as stated by the Manager.

“Over a total period of almost four years, from raising the original issue at the 2018 AGM and including two solid years of work behind the scenes on latest work, the launch of this guide is not only aligned to our goal of ‘by industry, for industry’ but a wonderful example of industry collaboration that we are proud of,” revealed Clark.

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