Preventative strategies and active monitoring for allergens and pathogens is vital to snack and bakery production. For companies developing gluten-free, grain-free, and/or allergen-free items, comprehensive allergen control is extremely important to ensure finished product safety for the end consumer.
For example, if a consumer with celiac disease buys a gluten-free product, assuming that it will have no gluten, and then the product actually does contain gluten, they could have a serious reaction upon consuming the product. Therefore, it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to make sure such a scenarios does not happen.
Pathogens are universal concerns. “Food pathogens are microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, mold, and to a lesser extent, fungi, that cause disease when ingested,” says Roger Landman, product operations manager, SYSPRO, Johannesburg, South Africa. “When someone eats a food contaminated with a pathogen, they become sick, and they are classified as having a foodborne illness. The most common foodborne-illness-causing pathogens that require hospitalization in the U.S. are Salmonella, Norovirus (Norwalk virus), Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, and Clostridium botulinum and perfringens.”
Food allergens, on the other hand, can be separated into food allergies and food intolerances, Landman notes. “While these are often confused, as both are triggered by food, food intolerances only involve the digestive system and do not involve an immunological response from the body to the food. Common food intolerances are gluten, milk and dairy, and monosodium glutamate. Food intolerances do not cause life-threatening symptoms. Food allergies, on the other hand, occur when certain foods are ingested, triggering an immune response by the body. When a person with a food allergy is exposed to the trigger food, their body starts producing a specific antibody, and causes allergic symptoms such as hives, rashes, and restricted breathing. This may require medical attention.”
Risks across the whole supply chain need appropriate management, says Landman. A proper risk-management methodology needs to be followed to protect the supply chain. In the food industry, this risk management methodology is known as a food safety management system (FSMS). Fortunately, these are well documented and well supported by many consultants.
“The responsible organizations therefore should not have an excuse for the current levels of non-compliance being experienced by the end consumers. The number of regulations and sophistication of these systems are also higher than we have seen previously, yet product recalls for food are at an all-time high. While some of these recalls cannot be avoided, the majority could easily be avoided through proper systems,” says Landman.
The FSMS looks to ensure that the product is safe to consume. Should a problem occur, the FSMS should be able to easily identify and remove the problematic variable from the supply chain.
Pathogens and allergens are covered by the FSMS, which includes product management during production through rigorous testing, but also includes the necessary warnings on the labels, says Landman.
Risk management expects that the potential problem is foreseen, but regular testing is undertaken to verify that no contamination has occurred. The FSMS will provide the framework to foresee and identify the potential risks via the HACCP plan, and the critical control points (CCPs) will be managed by the testing and checking regime.
In today’s rapidly changing and risky environment, this requires support by appropriate software and technology. Testing needs to be rapid and accurate, which requires the latest reliable technology for accurate and confident results, Landman says.
Cross-contact between foods that contain allergens and those that do not is the major challenge when it comes to proper allergen labeling, says Katy Jones, chief marketing and strategy officer, FoodLogiQ, Durham, NC.
When cross-contamination occurs and is unnoticed, allergens are left undeclared. To avoid this, snack and bakery producers must adopt manufacturing best practices for allergen control, she recommends. These include producing allergen-containing products in a separate facility with a dedicated staff, processing products with similar allergens in the same facility wherever possible, using allergen test kits to identify problems as production progresses, and using advisory statements like “Produced in a plant that processes [allergen name]” for products where cross-contamination may occur.
While you take precautions to prevent cross-contamination and mislabeling within your own facility, it’s also important to keep an eye on your suppliers to make sure they deliver on your brand promise. Full visibility into your supply chain is crucial for getting allergen labeling right, Jones says.
Supply chains are more intricate than ever before, and this can make it more difficult to verify supplier claims for ingredients, she notes. The pertinent question is this: Even if you have taken full precautions to ensure proper allergen labeling within your own facilities, can you vouch for your long list of suppliers?
Companies need to manage and monitor their suppliers across the board and ensure they maintain industry standards for allergen control at all times, says Jones. Suppliers should disclose, for instance, all allergenic products manufactured in the same facility as the supplied ingredients. “In addition, you should be up-to-date on their allergen-testing procedures and preventive measures against cross-contamination,” Jones says.
Company: Millipore Sigma
Sanitation Snapshot: Kelli Mazzie, senior field marketing associate, BioMonitoring, says that MilliporeSigma, Burlington, MA, offers many solutions that can help with environmental monitoring, allergen testing, and pathogen testing at facilities. “We offer the ability to source a wide variety of your testing products from one place and specialize in products that are easy to use, fast, and accurate. We work with you and your lab to determine what testing methods best fit your application needs and budget. Traditional culture media offerings also round out our full portfolio with our dehydrated culture media and ready-to-use media available.”
Products include ATP testing, total protein testing (allergen indicator swabs), lateral flow pathogen testing, molecular pathogen testing, and traditional media (dehydrated culture media and ready-to-use media).
Microbial contamination in raw materials can be a risk factor in the snack and bakery industry. MilliporeSigma has a new line of MC-Media pads for convenient rapid enumeration of yeast and molds, rapid aerobic counts, E. coli, and coliforms. These testing solutions offer manufacturing sites the ability to check their raw materials and/or final product for broad or specific microbial contamination that may be harmful to consumers or cause issues to their product quality. Ensuring product quality is a key component to ensuring consumer favorability and brand loyalty, Mazzie says.
Other features include:
Long shelf life
Compliant with international standards
Sanitation Snapshot: Staying on top of your supply chain activity is difficult without the right technology. With FoodLogiQ’s Manage + Monitor, snack and bakery producers can achieve greater transparency across the supply chain and manage supplier relations in a one-stop dashboard.
FoodLogiQ’s Manage + Monitor solution is a powerful tool for supplier and documentation management, conducting audits and assessments, and managing quality issues and incidents. Through it, you can manage and improve your ongoing supply chain processes, supplier partnerships and performance, and document and quality incident management.
Users can build an online supplier community and onboard suppliers in a centralized platform, reducing the time it takes to capture supplier data and manage partner communication. It facilitates required recordkeeping, reducing the time needed to access necessary documentation from hours to minutes.
In addition, the solution easily deploys supplier audits and corrective actions, increasing the percentage of suppliers who are compliant to set quality-assurance, food safety and business standards by at least 30–50 percent. It is also able to communicate quality standards to enable continuous improvement across the supply chain with the supplier engagement platform built just for the food industry.
Company: Nexcor Technologies
Sanitation Snapshot: Nexcor Technologies’ KLEANZ Food Safety and Sanitation Management solution helps food manufacturers verify, validate, and document their food safety efforts to maintain regulatory compliances and audit readiness. Specifically, its latest feature, KLEANZ Swab Mapping, manages swab scheduling and pushes all findings back to the KLEANZ system for corrective action requests or to simply trend swab results over time for continuous improvement.
Its Swab Mapping feature was developed in conjunction with several of the largest ATP Swab manufacturers globally to incorporate swab results into the KLEANZ Food Safety and Sanitation Management solution. The KLEANZ Swab Mapping system has the ability to alert management of results that are out of compliance and push the appropriate corrective actions to sanitation personnel.
Swab data is tracked over time in the KLEANZ system and can be visually analyzed through dashboard functionality and automated reporting. Downward trends can be mitigated and improved before posing substantial risk to the operation. Data can be filtered in numerous ways within the dashboards to ensure the clearest picture of “hot spots,” areas of improvement, and more—all with the goal of mitigating microbiological risks.