UK retailer Sainsbury’s is putting the emphasis on allergens in the production of own-brand foods supplied to its stores, as part of its academy training.
The supermarket chain is offering its own-brand suppliers a course in allergen management at its Technical Management Academy run in association with Campden BRI, based in the UK.
Bertrand Emond, Campden BRI’s head of training, told FoodNavigator.com that cross contamination was a “massive problem” and said: “Allergen is the reason for the majority of FSA Food Alerts and for a significant number of Sainsbury's (and other retailers) public recalls.”
He added that managing allergens was a “critical area for food manufacturers and retailers, requiring a hands-on, proactive approach”.
Emond said: “Legislation requires that certain food allergens are declared on pack when included as an ingredient in products but even with strict controls there is the chance that a product can be cross-contaminated due to the manufacturing environment.
“This new training module covers all aspects of the production process from the sourcing of raw materials, through production, assessment of the risks of cross contamination and the storage and testing of final products.”
Labelling allergenic ingredients has been a requirement in Europe since November 2005.
However, there is no clear instruction for precautionary labelling in case of cross-contamination in the EU directive, although many food manufacturers use the ‘may contain’ label where there might be a risk.
In the EU, around 3.9 per cent of children suffer from an allergy, which often become less severe or disappear in adulthood.
The 12 major allergens recognised in Europe are: cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, nuts, soybeans, milk, celery, mustard, sesame, and sulphur dioxide.
The two-day allergen management course, now part of the academy programme, will provide an overview of Sainsbury’s policy on the control of allergen cross contamination.
Organisers said that it could also help to reduce unnecessary ‘not suitable for’ labelling.
Emond told FoodNavigator.com that he expected the students to be technical managers and staff involved in technical management within Sainsbury’s supplier base, from small to large companies.
He also highlighted some steps manufacturers could take for allergen management, such as using risk assessment and the 'Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point' approach, as well as cleaning validation.
HACCP focuses on identifying the 'critical points' in a process where food safety problems (or 'hazards') could arise and putting steps in place to prevent things going wrong.
Cleaning validation ensures processing lines are properly and effectively cleaned between runs to prevent cross-contamination, with tests to demonstrate that allergens have been removed.
Heather Hailstone, brand protection manager at Sainsbury’s, said: “We are committed to working with the very best suppliers in the industry and providing a stimulating, professional development environment to increase quality and safety expertise and understanding.”
Other topics covered by the academy, which was launched five years ago, include legislation and labelling, packaging and food hygiene.