USDA releases guide to help food processors control allergens, other hazards
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service released new guidelines to assist meat, poultry and processed egg product producers in properly managing ingredients that could trigger adverse reactions among consumers with allergies or other sensitivities.
“Our mission as a public health agency is to protect America’s most vulnerable populations, including children, from harm, and these new guidelines do just that,” says Al Almanza, USDA deputy under secretary. “Beyond keeping our families safe, these guidelines also provide a useful tool to help food companies avoid preventable, costly recalls.”
Throughout the past few years, FSIS says there has been an increase in product recalls because of undeclared allergens. According to FSIS, these problems often are caught during labeling checks and are the result of changes to ingredient suppliers, products being placed in the wrong package or changes to product or ingredient formulations.
The new guidance covers prevention and control measures of potentially allergic ingredients, packaging, labeling, storage, checklists and allergen training among others.
The finalized guidelines are part of FSIS’ comprehensive and ongoing efforts to reduce the number of allergen-related recalls. In April 2015, FSIS inspectors met with management at every FSIS-regulated establishment in the country to discuss whether the establishment produces items containing allergens, and, if so, whether the establishment had a process in place to ensure proper labeling. FSIS inspectors then increased the number of allergen labeling-related inspection checks they conduct in these establishments in order to ensure products are properly labeled. FSIS believes this action has made plants more conscious of properly labeling their products and prevented additional recalls this year.
The new guidelines can be found online here.