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Even a small bit of peanut can cause a recall: Why you must fight allergens in baking


Joseph Baumert, Ph.D at the Department of Food Science and Technology as well as the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said in a talk at the 2015 Process Expo that bakers and other food manufacturers face risk of recall, loss of customers, and even possible lawsuits if even a tiny amount of allergen slip into a product.

Looking at where risk can occur in the baking process, Baumert said nothing can be overlooked. There can be cross-contamination, introduction of allergens into the process and other problems. His main suggestion is training and retraining every worker in the facility, as each manufacturer is “only as good as the weakest link”.

Gating and cleaning are essential steps

Other problems in the process include inadequate cleaning of shared equipment and packaging errors. For this, he said facilities could dedicate a single system or line to a food allergen, if they have the capacity. Otherwise, it may be good to use scheduling and regular cleaning audits to help ensure lines are properly cleaned and an allergen is not making its way into a free-from product. Baumert also believes there must be an allergen gating process, which means an in-depth review of potential new products before starting production.

Bakers must show special care to allergy increase

A special level of attention must be paid to food allergies in the baking and confectionery industries. Baumert said baked products, chocolate and confectionery treats were the majority food allergy recalls from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Awareness is especially important, as there has been an 18% increase in children under 18 affected by food allergies. Whether this is due to better diagnoses, better awareness or an unknown factor is not important; what is important is that food allergies is the most common form of anaphylaxis in US emergency rooms, making up 30% of these hospital visits. They also account for 100 to 500 deaths per year in the US.

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