Allergen labelling tips for the food industry
Food allergens, sulphites, and gluten sources can pose serious health problems for some consumers, sometimes even causing death. Food manufacturers and importers must ensure that their products are labelled properly so consumers can make safe food choices.
You can reduce incidents of illness and impacts on your company, such as food recalls, caused by undeclared allergens by:
- identifying food allergens that are used in or come into contact with your products
- putting an allergen prevention and control plan in place
- ensuring allergens are properly declared on labels
Tips to prevent undeclared allergens
By identifying all potential sources of allergens, you can manage how they are used in food products and prevent cross-contamination. Here are a few ways to identify allergens at your facility or in the products you import:
- be aware of which allergens, sulphites, and gluten sources must be declared on a food label
- review all ingredients you use to determine whether they contain allergens
- identify and control areas in your facility where allergen cross-contamination may occur
- clearly mark ingredients that contain allergens and store them in separate, designated areas
- require your suppliers to demonstrate allergen controls and check labels and formulations on new shipments
Prevent and control
Having an allergen prevention and control plan can help prevent cross-contamination and mislabelling of food products. Here are a few ways to prevent and control allergens:
- have clear procedures in place for receiving, producing, handling, and moving products and ingredients that contain allergens
- where possible, use separate processing lines, rooms or facilities to handle products and ingredients that contain allergens
- establish and follow effective cleaning procedures
- train staff to ensure they understand allergen control procedures
- keep records that show the steps you took to avoid the presence of undeclared allergens
- maintain up to date information on ingredients supplied, formulas and labelling
Proper allergen labelling is the only way consumers with food allergies and sensitivities can know if a food is safe for them to eat. It is your responsibility to ensure that food products are properly labelled. Here are a few ways to ensure that you are declaring all allergens:
- establish a process to check the accuracy of your labels and declare all allergens present in a product
- make sure all allergens in a product are declared in the list of ingredients (see full Requirements for the declaration of ingredients and allergens within the List of Ingredients and Allergens page) or in a "Contains" statement immediately after the list of ingredients.
- if a "Contains" statement is used it must list all allergens present in the food, regardless of whether they are already in the list of ingredients.
- declare all allergens regardless of which generation of an ingredient they appear in
- An example - hamburgers contain barbecue sauce (first generation); an ingredient in the barbecue sauce is seasoning (second generation); and an ingredient in the seasoning is soy (third generation). Therefore, soy must be declared in the ingredient list or in a "Contains" statement because it's an allergen present in the food.
- use the prescribed source names to declare allergens. The prescribed source name is a regulated term by which an allergen is commonly known. For example, seafood must be declared by using the common name of the fish, such as "tuna" or "halibut"; of the crustacean, such as "crab" or "shrimp"; or of the shellfish, such as "oyster" or "clams."
- apply a cross-contamination (or precautionary) statement when the unintentional presence of an allergen is unavoidable, despite having taken all reasonable preventive and control measures. CFIA recommends using the following precautionary statement: "may contain [X]" where [X] is the name of the allergen.
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