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allergies. The prevalence of allergies appears to
be rising, she said. The most common allergens,
by prevalence, are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree
nuts, fish and shellfish. Sesame is increasingly
being recognized as a common allergen, Keet
Food manufacturing experts are growing
hyper-vigilant of allergens from their facilities
and throughout their corporate structure.
In a food processing environment, allergens
can be strategically managed, said Leslie
Skybo, manager of quality, frozen foods platform
for ConAgra Foods. All levels of the organization,
from corporate to floor employees, must understand the importance of food allergen control.
Receiving, storage, scheduling and sanitation
are elements of manufacturing where allergenic
ingredients must be sequestered. Plants need
specific policies that comply with regulations
and support HACCP practices, she said.
At the receiving stage, Skybo recommends
containing allergens with a sampling plan for
incoming materials to verify that suppliers
deliver exactly what they contracted to send.
Incoming and outgoing materials should also
be identified regarding allergenic contents, she
“If you are running a lot of products and you
know that mispack is one of your risks, you
might want to store those separately or label
what’s in those containers,” Skybo said. Pallet
labels can easily be marked with colors that
symbolize specific allergens, she said, such as
yellow for peanuts.
In terms of scheduling, non-allergen products
should be produced first.
“Line segregation, for many of us, is not possible,” Skybo said.
That’s were sanitation and testing come in.
Good sanitation practices include flushing lines
after running a recipe with allergenic ingredients, Skybo said. A complete sanitation cycle
should be run and then validated at change-over. During changeovers, the line must be
cleared. An employee should then walk the line
to verify that all packaging and food material
are cleaned from the line. For validation, she
recommended a visual inspection, swabbing of
parts of the line, and following up with ATP and
allergen-specific testing, followed by product
“Depending on the form of the allergen, testing may not pick up its presence,” Skybo said.
Employees can help avoid product contamination by swapping out hairnets and other
articles of clothing when the line is changed
over, Skybo said. A specific color of utensils
should be assigned to each allergen, alerting
employees to seafood, for example, with the