FSIS guide to allergen control

by Erica Shaffer
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FSIS releases new guidance to reduce recalls of foods containing undeclared allergens.
FSIS aims to help food processors control potential hazards and reduce recalls of foods containing undeclared allergens.

WASHINGTON – The last seven years has seen an increase in recalls due to undeclared allergens. Now, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Dept. of Agriculture is working to help food processors to control potential allergens with new guidelines for meat, poultry and processed egg producers.

The guidelines provide information on proper handling, processing, storing and labeling products that contain an allergenic ingredient or ingredient of public health concern. Key components of the guidelines include identify, prevent and control and declare.

FSIS said establishments that follow the new guidelines are more likely to ensure all ingredients appear on product labels while avoiding undeclared allergens or other undeclared ingredients. FSIS said its inspectors often catch undeclared allergens and other ingredients during labeling checks. The agency said problems arise as the result of changes to ingredient suppliers, products being place in the wrong package or changes to product or ingredient formulations.

“Our mission as a public health agency is to protect America’s most vulnerable populations, including children, from harm, and these new guidelines do just that,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “Beyond keeping our families safe, these guidelines also provide a useful tool to help food companies avoid preventable, costly recalls.”

The eight major allergens include wheat, shellfish, eggs, fish, peanuts, milk, tree nuts and soybeans. The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that four out of every 100 children has a food allergy, and that an estimated 29,000 cases of anaphylaxis related to food occur each year, resulting in approximately 150 deaths.

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