The human body’s reaction to foods is still the subject of concern and curiosity. Food manufacturers worry about introducing ingredients into the food that could potentially harm customers. However, there is no way to know or remove allergens for billions of people living off the American food supply. The food safety sector of the food manufacturing industry has created guidelines that companies use for keeping the majority of people aware of the common allergens in their food.
The Big 8
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has identified eight foods that cause approximately 90 percent of all reactions.
- Legumes (soy and peanuts)
- Tree nuts
- Shell Fish
These ingredients are not prohibited, but they must be identified in the products they make up. Manufacturers also have a duty to keep them separate from other food products that do not have the allergen as a part of the recipe. Fortunately, there are ways to accomplish such a thing.
Keeping Food Safe During Manufacturing
Manufacturer’s primary concern is to keep all dust, debris, and residue of an allergen from other products and ingredients.
- Food Processing Systems are developed according to the particulars of the process that keep the allergen contained to the food mixes for which it is intended. Many systems are entirely dedicated to specific allergen products, and never other products. Storage areas are configured in much the same way.
- Rigorous cleaning systems ensure that allergens are completely removed.
- Regular maintenance ensures that equipment leaks are contained and small repairs made before non-allergen products are contaminated.
- Documentation is also important, from the point at which the allergen is introduced into the product, to packaging and shipping. This includes clear and universal product and shipping labels.
These are but a few of the ways that companies work to keep foods allergen-free, while properly identifying the products that do contain the problematic foods.
These measures are moot if consumers fail to take advantage of them. The U.S. FDA requires allergen disclosure on product packaging but Consumers still need to read the labels and heed them. Companies also indicate the products that may have been exposed to an allergen. The disclosure is made in the ingredients section of the food label. While scientists are still searching for broader solutions to food allergy problems, the food manufacturing sector makes it easier for consumers to purchase foods by adhering to strict allergen handling standards.