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Allergen Management

Development – To define detail, scope and purpose.

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Training participants will gain a basic understanding of Allergen Management and its applications within food safety and quality systems.

Basic knowledge competency will be verified through successful completion of the accompanying Allergen Management assessment activity.

Basic skill competency can be verified through the Allergen Management competency checklist available as a resource for this training activity.


Key Definitions For Allergen Management
- Allergen: A normally harmless substance which creates a reaction in the body of a sensitive individual.
- Cross Contact: Description of the incidence of allergenic materials becoming part of a foodstuff or process not specified to contain that foodstuff as a declared ingredient.
- Cross Contamination: Description of the incidence of an unwanted material becoming part of a foodstuff or process.
- Food Intolerance: Food intolerance is an adverse food-induced reaction that does not involve the immune system.
- HACCP: Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point or HACCP is a science based risk management system, relying on identification and recognition of specific hazards, and nominates measures for their control to ensure the safety of food.
- Immunoglobulin E or IgE: A substance created by the human body after an “allergic” person has consumed a particular allergenic food, potentially resulting in anaphylaxis, hives, asthma, or other common symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Allergen Management Development
When considering the development, documentation and implementation of Allergen Management within food safety and quality management systems, the following information should be considered to ensure effective outcomes:

About Allergen Management
Food allergens only affect a relatively small percentage of the population, but can be life threatening under certain circumstances. Allergens are contained within many different foods and food ingredients, but can also be introduced into foods through inappropriate production scheduling, raw material contamination, in-effective raw material, product and work in progress identification and traceability and in-effective cleaning and sanitation programs. Allergen management programs should be applied with the intent of controlling and managing the use of allergenic materials, production processes and pre-requisite programs within any food business.

Historical food safety and quality management systems utilised “Cross Contamination” as a term to define allergen interactions; contemporary food safety and quality management systems use the term “Cross Contact”, meaning there may be an acceptable limit of specified allergens within a particular foodstuff. The term “Cross Contamination” generally indicates the un-acceptable presence of a substance within foodstuffs.

About Allergens
An allergy is the reaction of the immune system to a normally harmless substance. This occurs when the body mistakenly believes that a food is harmful, and creates specific antibodies to attack the substance. The next time the individual eats that particular food, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals including histamines which are intended to protect the body against the substance. These chemicals can cause a variety of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system. Allergies are often mistaken for a food intolerance or sensitivity, which are generally of less concern than genuine allergies.

Allergenic sensitivities vary from one person to another and it is possible to be allergic to an extraordinary range of substances. A common example of a genuine allergic reaction occurs when the body creates Immunoglobulin E or IgE antibodies after the person has consumed the food. When these IgE antibodies react with the food, histamine and other chemicals called "mediators" can cause hives, asthma, or other common symptoms of an allergic reaction. This reaction is usually classed as an Anaphylaxis, which is a sudden, severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction that can involve numerous systems within and on the exterior of the body. One form of treatment for Anaphylaxis is the administration of sterile epinephrine to the person experiencing anaphylaxis, which suppresses the body's overreaction to the allergen, and allows time for the patient to be transported to a medical facility.

Food Intolerance
Food intolerance is an adverse food-induced reaction that does not involve the immune system. True food allergies include activation of the immune system. An example of food intolerance is lactose intolerance, which is usually when a person does not have any or enough of the enzyme required to digest milk or milk products. If a lactose intolerant person consumes milk or milk products, they might suffer from bloating and abdominal pain, but there is no production of any chemicals related to the immune system within the body.

Foods Commonly Associated with Allergies
A variety of foods contain ingredients that can cause adverse reactions in hypersensitive individuals. Most adverse food reactions are caused by the following foods and products made from them – Peanuts and products containing peanuts, Tree Nuts including almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts and products containing tree nuts, Sesame Seeds and products containing sesame seeds, Milk and products containing milk, Egg and products containing egg, Fish and products containing fish, Crustaceans including crab, crayfish, lobster, and prawns and products containing crustaceans, Shellfish including clams, mussels, oysters and scallops and product containing shellfish, Soy and products containing soy, Wheat Gluten and products containing wheat gluten, Sulphites and products containing sulphites. It is important that products containing even small amounts of the allergens listed above are identified with appropriate labelling to ensure allergen sufferers can avoid relevant foods.

Other foods such as Pumpkin, Celery, Celeriac, Corn, Maize, Legumes are also often found to be food allergens.

Common hidden sources of allergens in foods include:

Peanuts
- Peanut oil is sometimes used as an ingredient or a processing aid;
- Asian foods may contain peanuts in the form of oil, pastes, sauces or garnish;
- Crushed Nuts which are commonly used within baked goods and desserts may contain peanuts;
- Producers, processors and packers of other nuts may use the same equipment for peanuts;
- Some breakfast cereals may contain peanuts.

Tree Nuts
- Some manufactured meat products may contain tree nuts, for example, pistachio nuts in Mortadella;
- Dessert items may contain tree nuts, or traces of tree nuts;
- Baked goods such as crackers and cereals may contain tree nuts;
- Some breakfast cereals may contain tree nuts.

Sesame Seeds
- Some Asian and Middle Eastern foods may contain sesame seeds in the form of oil, pastes, sauces or garnish;
- Sesame is often used within sauces such as Tahini and Hommous.

Milk
- Casein, a milk protein is often used in processed fish, meat and non-dairy products;
- Butter and cream are often found within ready-to-eat prepared foods from restaurants and cafes;
- Meat slicing equipment is often used to slice meats, dairy products and other items.

Eggs
- Egg albumen protein may be used as a processing aid, in both dried and wet forms;
- Egg lecithin emulsifier may be used an agent in processed items;
- Whole or parts of eggs may be used in dressings such as mayonnaise;
- Some pastas and pasta products may contain egg, both within the pasta, and fillings.
- The equipment used to make egg-free pasta may also be used to produce pasta that contains egg.

Fish, Crustaceans and Shellfish
- Ethnic dishes from regions such as the Mediterranean, Northern Africa and Asia often contain fish, crustaceans and shellfish. This includes fish content within sauces and ingredients such as fish sauce, oyster sauce, dried anchovies, whole anchovies and other dried fish, crustaceans and shellfish varieties;
- Fish, crustacean or shellfish stock may be used in prepared foods, both within foods and sauces;
- Traditional Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies;
- Omega 3 is commonly sourced from fish.

Soy
- Soy and soy products are often used as processing additives within fish, meat, dairy and non-dairy products;
- Soy oil is sometimes used as an ingredient, processing aid or lubricant;
- Asian foods may contain soy and soy products in the form of oil, pastes, sauces or garnish;
- Soy products such as tofu in fresh, fried, paste, dried or marinated forms may be used in some Asian foods;
- Derivatives of Soy are often used in food processing for their functional effects on processed or manufactured foods.

Wheat Gluten
- Wheat products are often used as functional additives within fish, meat, dairy and other products;
- Wheat Glucose may contain traces of Gluten.

Sulphites
- Sulphites are given many different names including Sulphur Dioxide, Sodium Sulphite, Sodium Bisulphite, Sodium Meta-bisulphite, Potassium Bi-sulphite and Potassium Meta-bisulphite;
- Sulphites are commonly used as a preservative in many food products and beverages.

Allergen Sufferers
Consumers with food allergies are generally advised to contact the manufacturer of a particular product, and in the case of restaurant meals, to enquire about the ingredients used prior to consumption. If allergen suffers are in doubt about a certain food, it is best to avoid it totally, rather than risking an allergic reaction.

Oral Allergy Syndrome
ral allergy syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain proteins in a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts, which develops in some people with pollen allergies. It is referred to as an oral allergy syndrome because it usually affects the mouth and throat. These reactions are generally not related to pesticides or metals.

Oral allergy syndrome is nearly always preceded by hay fever and tends to occur most often in older children and adults. It is usually associated with pollen allergies but it can also affect people with allergies to the pollens of grass, and other plants. These reactions can occur at any time of year, but are often worse during the pollen season.

Symptoms may include itching and burning of the lips, mouth and throat, watery itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing. Some individuals report that peeling or touching the offending foods may result in a rash, itching or swelling where the juice touches the skin. More serious reactions can include hives and swelling of the mouth, pharynx and windpipe. In rare cases, severe allergic reactions have been reported such as vomiting and diarrhoea, bronchial asthma, generalised hives and anaphylactic shock. Symptoms usually develop within minutes of consuming or touching the food, but occasionally occur more than an hour later. A variety of fruits, vegetables and their juices, including orange, tomato, apple and grape, sometimes cause skin rashes and diarrhoea, especially in young children. Strawberries and pineapple can occasionally cause hives.

Most oral allergy reactions are caused by raw foods, since allergenic proteins are usually destroyed by cooking. The main exceptions to this are celery and nuts which may cause reactions even after being cooked. Some plant parts, such as the skin, may be more allergenic than others; however the allergic characteristics of some fruits appear to decrease during storage. Foods associated with the oral allergy syndrome, which has occasionally been reported to cause anaphylactic reactions, include: kiwifruit, hazelnut, white potato, celery, parsley, beans and cumin.

Individuals who are hypersensitive to specific foods usually find that they can consume these foods if they are well cooked, canned or microwaved. People who develop a rash, itching or swelling when touching or peeling these foods may prevent this by wearing gloves. Consultation with a qualified allergen specialist is recommended to determine the cause of reactions to plant foods, and whether any special precautions are advisable.

Control of Allergens Within a Food Business
Various processes and controls may be put in place to manage allergens on site and prevent food which should not contain certain allergens from containing them.

These may include:
- Control of allergens on site through purchasing. This may include obtaining raw material specifications prior to purchasing products in order to assess, and restrict if necessary, the allergens within each required raw material;
- Control of processes such as re-working, which may potentially contaminate non-allergen products with allergenic ingredients. It is common for policies and procedures to be developed, documented and implemented to ensure that only “like for like” products are reworked into each other, or alternately, for a matrix of reworkable products to be made available for production scheduling and operational teams;
- Giving consideration to the purchase of synthetic flavorings and functional raw materials if the requirement is to restrict or eliminate certain allergens from the food business site. For example, synthetic peanut flavoring that does not contain peanuts or glazing for baked products that does not contain egg may be used;
- Identification and storage of allergens in designated areas, including grouping similar allergens where possible;
- Storage of allergenic material on lower shelving / racking to prevent spills onto non-allergenic materials;
- Where possible, segregating preparation and processing areas, manufacturing or packaging lines for allergenic and non-allergenic foods;
- If the same preparation and processing areas, manufacturing or packaging lines have to be used for processing, consider scheduling of non-allergenic products prior to processing allergenic products. Allergen scheduling is one of the most prominent methods for controlling allergen cross contacts within food businesses that produce both allergen containing and non-allergen products;
- Specified allergen cleans between batches of allergenic and non-allergenic products. The verification of “allergen” cleaning activities between batches of products is commonly verified through the use of rapid testing methods that detect the presence of proteins on the surfaces cleaned;
- Training of staff in basic allergen management and ensuring all possible measures are taken to prevent allergen cross contact. For example glove changing, hand washing, uniform control, utensil washing and staff site movements should be considered within targeted Allergen Management training.

Allergen Labelling
Undeclared ingredients on food labels may occur because of production and packaging instances such as “carry-over” or “hang ups” of product or work in progress within production and packaging systems. This may occur due to incomplete cleaning of surfaces and utensils, incorrect or incomplete listing of ingredients, or unknown ingredients in raw materials. Precautionary allergen labelling must be accurate and adequate, and must not take the place of good manufacturing practices.

In instances where precautionary or advisory allergen labelling is applied, it is important to consider that sales of product may be affected by “over declaring” the potential for a product to contain an allergen that is not actually an ingredient. A structured risk-based methodology should be applied and documented to display the outcomes of such risk assessments.

It is important to consider any legislative requirements for the labelling of allergens within any food product. This is particularly important where foods contain ingredients which are pre-formulated, and are added.

If your food business supplies foodstuffs manufactured to a customer’s specifications, it is important to consider any specific Allergen Management Development requirements in relation to their items.


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