Food allergen management comes at a cost

The rising incidence of food allergies and the responding allergen labelling legislation around the world have been met by the food industry with various allergen controls being implemented throughout the supply chain. The cost of these approaches have not been previously described. The University of Nebraska, Food Allergy Research & Resource Program’s (FARRP), Dr Steve Taylor and a team of colleagues have worked to characterise the factors that contribute to the economic impact of food allergen control practices on the food industry.

A focus group comprising 100 US food industry professionals was brought together to identify the most costly aspects of food allergen management. Based on focus group findings, a survey was developed and disseminated to a sample of 50 quality control food industry specialists with knowledge of their company’s food allergen management practices.

Representatives from 92% of companies reported that they produced food products containing one or more of the top allergenic foods requiring labelling. Cleaning procedures, employee training, and the potential for a recall due to allergen cross contact were most frequently rated as the important factors in food allergen management.

Recalls due to food allergen cross contact, cleaning procedures, equipment and premises design, and employee training were ranked as the greatest allergen management expenses. Although 96% of companies had a food allergen control plan in place, nearly half (42%) had at least one food allergen-related recall within the past five (5) years.

The US industry appears to endorse a willingness to unify precautionary allergen labelling to communicate a clear message more effectively to consumers.

Reference: Gupta et al. 2017 Journal of Food Protection. Vol. 80(10) pp. 1719-1725. Doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-17-060.

Co-authors Steve. L. Taylor and Joseph L. Baumert are members of the VITAL Scientific Expert Panel (VSEP). See VITAL Science for more information about the VSEP.