Your FIVE top tips for Allergen Risk Assessment…

The aim of an allergen risk assessment is to ensure that where cross-contamination risks in your factory exist, they are controlled to minimise allergen contamination.

Allergen risk assessments can become complicated documents, here are FIVE top tips to make sure you’ve got it all covered.

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  1. Cross-contamination at your supplier’s site

In order to ensure that any cross-contamination risks from your suppliers manufacturing process is covered, you must find out from your suppliers what allergens they handle on site, that are not contained in the ingredient you are purchasing.

Where your supplier has other (not contained) allergens on site, then you need to understand from your supplier if there is a risk of cross-contamination from this allergen into your ingredient.  Depending on the manufacturing process it is not always possible for cross-contamination to be removed all together.

Where a cross-contamination risk is possible, you must decide how you are going to handle this in your allergen risk assessment.  Depending on the likelihood of cross-contamination occurring, you may decide to include the allergen in your risk assessment.  In all cases, where there is a risk of cross-contamination, you will need to discuss this with your supplier to establish the best action to take.

To help you carry out this assessment with your suppliers, we have provided you with an allergen questionnaire that you can send to your suppliers to collate the information you need. Just click the button below to access our downloads page.

2. Multiple ingredient supply

Make sure that when you are assessing your ingredients for the allergens that they contain, that you include all suppliers of the ingredients.  Where there is more than one supplier for an ingredient, you need to list them all and the allergens that each ingredient from each supplier contains.  Don’t forget to include contingency suppliers too if you have them.

Make sure you use the ingredient specifications for each supplier when you are carrying out the assessment.  Just because they are all supplying the same ingredient, definitely does not mean that the ingredient will contain the same allergens.

3. Grouping can help!

If you have many products to assess, your allergen risk assessment can get really complicated.

One way of making it a little bit easier to work with and also read once it’s finished, is to group the products by the type of allergens that they contain, before you put them through the assessment of the processing steps.

What I mean by this is, list all your products.  Then document the allergens in each product.  If you use a spreadsheet to do this, rather than word, you can then filter the results of the allergens that each product contains, to see what allergen groups you have.  For example, all products that contain wheat gluten, soya and milk.  Then all products that contain wheat gluten, milk and egg.

By doing this – you can then put groups of products that contain the same allergens through the assessment, meaning there is less to assess.  Just make sure you list all the products in each group and also still show which products go through with process steps.

4. Reverse thinking…

Don’t forget when carrying out your allergen risk assessment, you must reverse your thinking.  We have to look after the products that do not contain the allergen(s), rather than focus on the ones that do contain the allergen(s).

To make this easier, we tend to use colour to make this stand out.  We list the allergens and where a product does not contain the allergen we colour the relevant cell red.  Where is does contain the allergen we colour is white.  That way the red stands out as at risk.

5. Prove it! – Before and after…

Once you’ve carried out your risk assessment you should be able to determine where the cross-contamination risks occur and also set your production scheduling to minimise risks.

You then need to validate the controls such as cleaning that you have developed.  Most sites have this covered, but many sites that I audit forget to carry out the assessment before, as well as after the cleaning.

When you are carrying out your swabbing, make sure that you swab the piece of equipment prior to cleaning as well as after.  If you don’t do it before, you cannot show that the allergen was there and therefore, you can’t prove that the cleaning method that you’ve put in place removed it.

It is also a good idea to send off the first products produced on that piece of equipment as well for testing, to show that the cleaning method covered all the parts of the equipment and that there are no trap points that haven’t been controlled.

Allergen risk assessments are complicated if you’ve got a lot of products and more than one or two allergens. If you need help carrying out your risk assessment, we can help.
If you have any allergen queries, please just add them to the comments section below and we’ll be happy to answer them for you.  If you have any clever tips that you use when doing your allergen risk assessment, please share them with our BRC community by adding them below.
Thanks, Kassy

Have your say…

2 thoughts on “FIVE Top Tips for Allergen Risk Assessment

  1. Hi
    Currently on our site producing sterilised pouched food, we swab our line with gluten, milk and egg swab after products conteining these allergens and before free from products. Also atp swabbing between every run. Is it possible just to validate the cleaning practises to eliminate swabbing between every production run? Do you think customer whould be ok with that?

    1. Hi Lukasz
      It depends on:
      a) what your current results look like – are the allergen swabs always clear? If so, then you can use this in your risk assessment to prove the likelihood of contamination is low
      b) do you make a claim on your product that it is free from? If not, then this is another element to include in your risk assessment and would reduce the risk
      c) customer requirements – does your customer specify you must do this?

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