Product recalls in bakery and snack categories have remained consistent over the years, with undeclared allergens the primary cause. These costly recalls are preventable!
In 2014, according to data in the SAGE Food Safety Consultants “Comprehensive Recall Data Analysis” report, recall issues were widespread among bakery items, causing them to rank among the top five most-recalled types of products. Bakery and snack products account for about 10 percent of all food recalls in 2014, according to preliminary data.
Cakes and cookies have had the most recalls in recent years, with bread products trending closely behind.
What’s behind the persistent problem with allergens?
Two-thirds (66 percent) of bakery recalls are due to undeclared allergens. Undeclared dairy ingredients have been the primary offender, followed by undeclared wheat. There have been many instances where flour is listed on a product’s ingredient statement without manufacturers naming the source (wheat, soy, etc.), thus causing a recall due to the allergen.
Bakers and snack manufacturers also sometimes use dairy and wheat ingredients, in combination with other allergens, as a carrier of a flavoring or to carry the coating. Undeclared soy and egg have also played a moderate role in bakery allergen recalls. Recalls for undeclared tree nuts have surpassed recalls for undeclared peanuts over time, but overall have been fairly low.
Label management is critical in preventing costly bakery recalls. Proper label management starts with product development and selection of ingredient suppliers. Since 1972, regulators have required food labels to list the ingredients, and since 2004 listing the eight designated food allergens on packaged foods is mandatory. Too many of the bakery recalls are due to a lack of listing the allergen contained in the product formula—or one that could potentially cross-contaminate in the plant—on the label that is placed on the package. Label copy must be proofed against the production formula to minimize this problem. Also, it is important to proof the printed labels coming from the printer before use.
Using the wrong label on the wrong product is another major cause of allergen recalls of bakery goods. This is related to mismanagement of label inventory. All firms need a procedure for removing leftover labels once a run has been completed and a storage procedure to avoid intermixing label inventory. Upon startup, and when new rolls or boxes of labels are introduced, there should be a procedure outlining responsibility for verification that the new label is the correct and the allergen of concern is covered in the ingredient statement.
Controlling allergens is also a partnership among your employees and your suppliers. When changing an ingredient supplier, you must verify all of the allergen exposures that could be related to that new supplier.
At the end of the day, the consumers who buy your products place their trust in your brand and expect the label to accurately reflect what is in the product.