The consultancy, which quizzed a range of US food manufacturers about their allergen management practices last year, said many companies were overly reliant on supplier raw material specifications, vendor questionnaires and HACCP (hazard analysis, critical control point) plans but did not always double-check that the information provided was reliable.
Supplier records taken at face value without further verification
Many also failed to ask sufficiently rigorous questions about their suppliers’ allergen control systems, claimed the survey.
“As manufacturers continually increase their reliance on supplier-provided records to comply with regulations, these records are often taken at face value without further verification.
“The Deloitte & Touche survey found that 40% of respondents do not determine whether packaging materials contain allergenic ingredients and 30% do not determine what allergens are actually in purchased ingredients.”
While most respondents had dedicated wet production lines to minimize allergen cross contamination issues, the majority of these lines were not physically isolated from non-allergen processing lines, therefore making control programs to avoid adulteration more challenging, noted the survey.
Similarly, only 35% of respondents said they conducted final product testing for the presence of allergens not listed on product labels, while one in 10 did not have a validated cleaning program for removing allergens.
However, many firms were getting better at eliminating allergenic ingredients, where possible, from certain recipes; ensuring people responsible for developing new products are more aware of the risks of allergens; and raising awareness of how new suppliers, recipes or reformulations could raise new allergen control and labeling issues.
Does my product contain what it says on the tin?
Many were also performing periodic internal audits of final products to verify that the product formulation matched the records of ingredients used, said the survey.
The survey was conducted by the Food and Product Safety Group within Deloitte & Touche and was completed by 20 food manufacturers – some public, some private – of varying sizes across a range of product categories.