Every year the Food Standard Agency publishes an annual report with information about the overall food industry, that includes a useful overview of the total number of Food Alerts and Information Notices sent to local authorities who enforce food law.
Interestingly, only a small proportion of the total number of food incidents lead to a formal food alert, which are issued for incidents where the product in question has a wide distribution involving more than one local authority. This doesn’t tell us how many incidents did not result in this process, but our individual experience will lead us towards conclusions on this – dependant on the products we use in our own companies, and the minor alerts we may have been involved with in our own local authority area.
The current picture
2013 numbers of such food alerts was 47 and this has increased dramatically to a reported 60 in their 2014 report, showing a worrying 27% increase inside the last twelve months. In case you don’t have both reports to hand, here is how the total number of food alerts and information notices compares:
Allergens reported in 2013 was 47, while in 2014 it has risen to 60
Microbiological reported in 2013 was 19, and in 2014 had fallen to 15
Foreign Bodies reported in 2013 was 9, and in 2014 fell to just 6
Chemical reports in 2013 were 4, and in 2014 fell to just 1
Other reasons in 2013 was 16, and in 2014 fell to 6
In all other categories, the number of alerts has fallen, including the total number of alerts over all categories, which in 2013 was 95, and reported in 2014 had dropped to 88. This reduction is of course something that we all aim for, and it evidences that current work in these areas is clearly having an effect. If you wish to remind yourself of the reports, here are direct links to them: 2014 report 2013 report
68% are Allergen Alerts
The percentage of Allergen related alerts of the total in 2013 was 49% (47 of 95) and the worrying picture from the 2014 report indicates a significant rise to 68% of the total number of alerts, or 60 of the total 88. So is there a reason for this increase in Allergen alerts, and is there any easy way of reducing it across the industry?
Well, there are three possible ways to combat this growing risk and these are: Allergen Risk Assessments, Allergen Declarations and Allergen Management Labelling Systems. Here is a brief outline of how these procedures could lead to a reduction in the overall numbers of allergen alerts reported next year:
Allergen Risk Assessment
Creating and maintaining up to date allergen risk assessments can seem like an endless task. It can involve large and complex Excel spreadsheets that list every allergen and every ingredient purchased, creating a matrix that needs to be updated whenever any new ingredient is brought in, either on trial, or as a permanent run.
This takes a huge amount of man hours, training and experience to get right. But there is an easy alternative for those who are using QADEX software. The module that will fulfil this role for you is actually free to any of our customers who use the Raw Material Specifications Module and the Self Audit Questionnaires Module.
An incorrect allergy declaration on any packaging is always an issue, but there are various policies that can prevent this and one of these is to carefully check every raw material specification against a list of allergens that are known to be present on supplier manufacturing sites.
This vast amount of data exists in all your specifications and supplier audit documents, which needs to be cross-checked, line by line, whenever you receive a new document from any supplier.
Thankfully, the QADEX, allergen declarations from suppliers can now be easily auto-validated, which will massively help to reduce any incorrect allergen declarations on your packaging. Even better, this module is provided completely free to all users of the QADEX Raw Material Specifications Module and the Self Audit Questionnaires Module.
Allergen Management Labelling
On a day to day basis, the amount of data contained in all your specifications and supplier audit documents means that there is just too much of it to accurately cross check everything line by line, whenever you receive a new document from a supplier. It highlights the lack of synergy between current supplier audit functions, and the existing product specification functions that are inherent in many food businesses.
You may be relieved to discover that the QADEX Allergen Management module can automatically solve all of these issues for you, with a unique software programme that uses powerful inbuilt validation tools to detect differences or inconsistencies in allergen labelling.
It also removes the need to rely on paper based systems which are not up to date, and resolves the constant need for adequate technical resources to review and cross check every datum provided by every supplier; for every specification; against a plethora of data gathered from supplier audit processes.
Many Allergy recalls are preventable.
Allergen recalls are expensive and damage brands – sometimes beyond short-term repair.
Using QADEX software can help to substantially reduce the risks faced by your business being involved in an allergen related recall, and that is good news for everyone.
We think it‘s worth shouting about….