Ten musts of allergen management

Since the declaration of allergen content in food products has become mandatory in the food industry, consumers have witnessed a proliferation of allergen statements, formulations and formats that often cause effects opposite to those intended. Product labels turn out to be either so confusing that the consumption by people with allergies is discouraged, or so all-encompassing that users have to wonder if any real check was conducted on the products. In both cases, a detrimental effect is achieved – the consumers lose confidence in the information on the label.

Ideally, the information conveyed in the label should be the result of an evaluation of the real risk of the presence of an allergen in the product. This evaluation should take into account a risk assessment of the presence of allergens (comprising the whole production chain) and an appropriate allergen management plan.

Food allergen management is the name given to the collection of all documented measures and policies taken by a company to identify, minimise, control, or, if possible, eliminate the presence of allergens in all the levels and areas of a company involved in the supply chain. This includes the training of personnel and the internal and external communications of the risk and presence of said allergens.

There are guidance documents and many food safety certification programs that provide general guidelines on the aspects to take into account when putting a food allergen management plan in place. Though there may be some local variation, all of them share similar aspects.

Understand how your suppliers determine allergen status
It is essential to determine or verify the allergen status of the material suppliers provide and to understand their allergen risk and their allergen management practices.
There are different ways to accomplish this. The first and simplest is to require that providers give information about the measures they have taken to get the allergen status they declare. This inspection can include the testing of the material with allergen-specific analysis methods like ELISA. But that is just a starting point. Preferably, one should take more exhaustive measures that include requiring audits or certifying compliance via a food safety standard scheme. All information must be properly recorded and protocols must be in place on how to handle changes or substitutions.

Know how to handle and store raw materials and intermediate products
Pay attention to how raw materials and intermediate products are accepted, handled and stored. The main focus should be on clear identification and the avoidance of cross-contact, since this is the main risk that arises from handling such materials and products. Upon reception, the material should be sampled to verify its allergen status; this should be conducted in a controlled way to avoid dispersion with thoroughly cleaned (or disposable) sampling tools. Allergenic materials should be kept sealed whenever possible, and must be clearly marked at all stages, such as by the use of clear colour-coded labels or containers. Furthermore, materials should be isolated in clearly demarcated areas. Where this is not possible, other measures to minimise cross-contact should be taken. For example, store allergenic materials at floor level to prevent them from spilling on other materials. Another important consideration is the nature of the materials: liquid, powder, granulate, etc. Measures should always be appropriate to the kind of material in use.

Use dedicated premises and equipment
Whenever possible, use dedicated premises for the storage, processing and production of goods with a defined allergen profile. Alternatively, having dedicated production lines is ideal. Both options are seldom practical, so an effective segregation program should be in place along with a validated cleaning program. Whenever possible, equipment should be exclusively employed for specific materials (this also includes minor equipment like scales and scoops). Also, the design and layout of the premises and equipment, as well as the way in which they are employed, also have critical risk associated to them from an allergen management perspective. For example, open production lines are more prone to cross-contamination through spillage.

Check the recipe
This one is often overlooked – all ingredients to be processed must be the same ones listed in the recipe. This requires checking that verifies that the correct materials are used before manufacturing begins. Automated label verification systems are a good option. This complements measures from other points – correct and appropriate labeling at all times and segregating allergenic materials. Spatial segregation may not be enough. Temporal segregation can ensure that allergen-free materials enter production prior to materials with known allergen profiles.

Check your packaging and reworking processes
One of the major causes for food product recalls is incorrect packaging. This reflects the need for appropriate checks during and verification after packaging. The storage of packing materials and packed products is also important. Here again, temporal segregation is important. If they become contaminated at this point, all the earlier measures taken to avoid cross-contact are rendered useless. Ideally, processors would rework food only on the same product from which it originated. If this is not feasible, then the rework should be used only in products with the same allergen profile. Finally, it is important to regularly verify the effectiveness of the management plan by checking final products for the presence of allergens. Note that this is necessary but not sufficient to make “Free-from” claims – single assays do not supplant a whole food safety scheme.

Evaluate and declare any changes
If a change in product is needed, then be sure to evaluate the new materials and communicate relevant information to the consumer. If a change of material or formulation requires that new allergens be introduced, the allergen risk needs to be re-evaluated according to the management plan. Any change to the allergen profile should be addressed by appropriate measures to control the allergen.
Just as important is to make sure these changes are communicated to the consumer via multiple channels. Some guides promote such communication through allergic consumer organisations. Since customers do not usually read the list of ingredients of products they are already familiar with, make sure the changes are declared in the allergen profile in a clearly visible fashion on the package with labels such as “Now contains…” or “New formulation”. Finally, any old packing material should be removed and destroyed to avoid using it by mistake.

Clean thoroughly and often
An allergen management system rises or falls depending on the quality of the cleaning regimen. Validate and regularly test the cleaning of facilities, equipment and production lines to confirm the effectiveness of these methods. Ideally, the processor will use an analytical method specific to the allergens that represent a risk. If this is not possible, a surrogate allergen based on the allergen load of the materials might be effective. But when it comes to the cleaning process itself, there are other things worth considering – use single-purpose cleaning materials, adapt the layout of the plan to facilitate cleaning, and employ equipment whose design prevents the build-up of raw material and allows for easy access to all the parts that need cleaning. Wet cleaning, when possible, is preferable. When it comes to dry cleaning, avoid any method such as compressed air that could cause the unintentional spread of material that would increase the risk of cross-contamination.

Every record in its right place
There’s an old adage: “If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen”. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of documentation in an allergen management plan. Every protocol and measure derived from the risk assessment to control the presence of allergens must be documented. Also, records need to be kept of the processes in place, such as checklists and records of cleaning, inspection, receipt and release of materials. Ideally, keep the risk assessment report with the documentation of the plan so that proof can be offered about how risks are being managed. Regular audits will also ensure compliance with all protocols and procedures.

Inform consumers with accurate, science-based labeling
As we’ve written elsewhere, the product label can be a either a powerful tool or a complete hindrance, depending on the information it contains and how it is conveyed. The main problems come from voluntary allergen labelling, as in the “may contain” statements. Labelling should not be misleading, ambiguous or confusing and should be based on relevant scientific data (see Art. 36.3, REG EU 1169/2011). Appropriate and informative labelling serves to establish a brand as trustworthy and informs the consumer about his or her options honestly. Labels that state every possible allergen are usually perceived as useless and protect the company more than the consumer.

Get commitment from the entire team
Finally, the human factor: everyone involved should be aware of the risk represented by food allergens and should be trained according to their responsibilities. Don’t forget that many employees could be allergic themselves. Team members should be aware that cross-contamination could come from their own activities, which means appropriate hygiene and GMP should be observed. Dedicated work clothes restricted to allergen-handling restricted areas should be provided. Ensure that all protocols are followed by giving the team the tools they need to do so with frequent training courses.

Ensuring food safety is the collective responsibility of everyone in the organisation. One component is crucial to setting the wheels in motion – the commitment of management. It’s up to them to ensure the development of a comprehensive risk-based allergen management plan, its effective application, and its continuous evaluation and improvement.

New app helps find allergens on restaurant menus

With claims that more than a third of Australians are living with a food allergy, intolerance or lifestyle-led dietary preference (AIL), one company believes there is a need for a more streamlined way to help diners choose where and what to eat.

A new Melbourne-based technology business, TLRT Foods (pronounced tolerate), is set to look at the way people with dietary restrictions and food preferences are eating out. For a limited time, TLRT is offering restaurants options free menu on-boarding under the guidance of TLRT’s expert dietitian team, led by Dr Jaci Barrett and Mel Adamski, and Chef Advisor and Huxtaburger founder Daniel Wilson.

Using a combination of nutritional expertise and cutting-edge health tech, TLRT works with restaurant kitchens to identify more than 20 allergens, intolerances and lifestyle choices (AIL) across a menu, which is then uploaded into the TLRT app. Diners download the app for free, create a profile, search participating restaurants on the platform, and their preferences are automatically cross-referenced against menus to let them know what’s suitable to eat.

Following a trial engaging more than 7,000 dinners across 30+ local restaurants, TLRT is looking to rapidly expand its restaurant and customer bases in conjunction with its crowdfunding campaign partner, Birchal, which also enables anyone the chance to invest now at the genesis of this clever initiative.

“Not only will TLRT help restaurants to ensure they have readily accessible nutritional information, it will alleviate pressure on floor staff often fielding many, and sometimes complex or unclear, questions. By being on the app restaurants and cafes that care about accessibility will be more visible too,” said TLRT managing director, Adam Copolov.

“Before we started our trial in November, 76 per cent of participants surveyed confirmed they had been to a restaurant they thought could cater their dietary requirements but found – when the food was served – it wasn’t suitable. A second survey within our trial period found 84 per cent of people had used successfully used TLRT to help them decide where they’d eat out. So TLRT’s driving people to restaurants, not just helping them on the spot.”

“For this to be really successful we recognise we need restaurants at scale, so for the next six months on-boarding and subscription fees will be waived.”

A recent survey by Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) uncovered the fact that 70%2 of people living with an allergy or intolerance felt uncomfortable when dining out and Maria Said, CEO of A&AA, applauds TLRT for their innovation and effort to support this group.

“Knowing restaurants take food allergy seriously – and will make accommodations – helps build consumer confidence. A&AA, however, reminds people with food allergy to always disclose their allergy and ask questions on food content on arrival at any restaurant. They must also always have their emergency medication with them as accidents are never planned.”

TLRT has been in development for the past two years, utilising more than 200k data points with Tech Lead and fourth co-founder, Matthew Rose being confident it provides a level of clarity, in a user-friendly format, which is not currently available.
The business is aiming to be the go-to food preference platform, helping consumers feel as if they have a dietitian in their pocket when dining out, whilst helping restaurants market to a niche group of consumers that desperately are looking for a better alternative to find where to eat out with confidence!
Find out more through their website: www.tlrtfoods.com.au or express an interest

Unlabelled allergens rife in imported food

Scientists who tested a shopping trolley-sized collection of food imported from Asia have found that nearly half of the samples were contaminated with potentially deadly, undeclared allergens.

Professor Andreas Lopata, head of James Cook University’s Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory led the study and said the findings were alarming.

After fellow Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine researcher Michael Sheridan bought 50 packaged food items from six Asian grocery stores in Melbourne, the team checked the labelling and tested the contents.

“Allergens not listed on the product labelling were detected in 46 per cent of the products analysed, with 18 per cent containing multiple undeclared allergens,” Lopata said.

Undeclared allergens detected included egg, gluten, milk and peanut, some in very high concentrations.

Lopata said food allergies are increasing globally with Australia having one of the highest incidences of food allergy among children.

“Hospital admissions for food-induced acute allergic reactions rose by about 350 per cent in Australia between 1997 and 2005 and increased a further 150 per cent over the next seven years to 2012,” he said.

China was the source of products with the highest number of detectable, undeclared allergens, followed by Thailand and South Korea.

Professor Lopata said while food labelling appears well regulated in Australia, it’s less well-regulated in some Asian countries.  “That’s of concern, with Australian imports from ASEAN countries (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) increasing from 18 to 23 per cent from 2002 to 2012, and the food trade from Asia to Australia continuing to increase by about 2.5 per cent each year.”

He said authorities in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland performed extensive studies of imported food in those countries and found that 10 per cent of products where not correctly labelled with the detected allergens.

 

The importance of food and beverage labelling

Food labelling – it can be a minefield. In an era of food allergens, many imported products, as well as a bevy of health and safety regulations, food and beverage manufacturers have their work cut out for them to make sure they create products that meet a wide range of food regulations.

It’s something not lost on Fiona Fleming who is the managing director of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST), which is the body for food industry professionals who work in many different fields within the food and beverage industry. Fleming knows that food labelling can be a difficult subject to navigate, especially for those just starting out in the industry.

What are the main issues surrounding food labelling? Correct labelling of imported foods and declaration of food allergens provide significant challenges, according to Fleming. Australia does appear to be the food allergy capital of the world, with Melbourne leading the way.

There is no single reason for this, more a myriad of causes – peoples’ diets have changed, more sufferers are reporting their allergies and, in the case of Melbourne, some researchers believe low levels of vitamin D contribute due to the city’s cooler climate and children spending less time outdoors in the sun.

READ MORE: Six reasons why food labelling is important

Whatever the reason, consumption of a food allergen can have fatal consequences for those who are allergic to that food or foods. For someone with a severe allergy, exposure to the allergen can cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis which affects the whole body, often within minutes of exposure.

“They key allergens of concern in Australia and New Zealand are egg, milk, peanut, fish, crustacea, peanuts, soybeans, sesame seed, tree nuts, wheat and other gluten containing cereals, and lupin,” Fleming said.

“These are required to be labelled when present in a food under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. And just to add to the confusion, both for those on the ground in Australia and those wanting to import food products, allergens required to be labelled in one country might not always be required to be labelled in another.”

For example, in Europe, mustard and celery are allergens that must be labelled, whereas in Australia they are not on the list of food allergens required to be labelled.

“Any ingredient that is in a food product has to be labelled, and it is up to the importer to ensure that foods they bring into Australia and New Zealand have the correct allergen declarations to comply with ANZ requirements,” Fleming said.

“Australian and NZ manufacturers have gone further with labelling following best practice guidance developed by the food industry. For example, allergen names are highlighted in bold text in the ingredient list which helps consumers when purchasing products.”

Food allergens are not the only important piece of information that needs to be put on food labels.

For imported foods, all of this information is required to be provided in English, meaning labels must be translated accurately and completely. Failure to include all of the information can potentially result in a costly product recall and injury to consumers.

Importers of foods into Australia have to be responsible and realise that ignorance of local labelling laws is no excuse if the correct information is not available to the buying public. There is an over-riding premise in law that ignorance of law is no defence.

“All food companies have an obligation to know the regulations under which they must operate, and they have an overriding obligation to provide food that is safe and suitable,” Fleming said.

“Accurate food labelling is important for ensuring food safety, and ignorance of the labelling requirements is no defence.”

First and foremost, manufacturers tend to initially concentrate on the product itself. Is it tasty? How much will it cost to produce? Where can we source the ingredients? Can we outsource the manufacturing of our product, or can we set up or own manufacturing facility?

Once a manufacturer gets their head around what is involved in crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, correct labelling can sometimes be intimidating and time consuming. But there is help available.

Fleming is the first to acknowledge that there no easy route to labelling food and beverage products.

“Food labelling is quite complex,” said Fleming. “I do recognise that it is very hard to start up a food manufacturing enterprise because sometimes companies don’t know where to go to find the information they need.

“There are certainly organisations that provide training in food labelling. If you are in NSW, for example, you can go to the NSW Food Authority’s website where there is a lot of good information for starting a business, and they have some basic information around requirements for food labelling.”

The final piece of advice Fleming would give is with regard to preservatives and additives in food products. They, too, have to be approved for use, and labelled as part of the ingredient listing on products.

“Australia is a small country, population wise, and we import a lot of our products,” Fleming said.

“It is important to remember that just because something is approved to be used in a food product overseas, it doesn’t mean it’s been approved to be used here.

It can be challenging negotiating the regulations, but it is very important for companies to be aware of the requirements and put steps and processes in place to ensure they have the information and knowledge they need to ensure their products are fully compliant.

“I know that sometimes information is not easy to find, but there are also food consultants out there who can assist. The AIFST website has a page that lists members who are consultants and provide this sort of assistance to food companies.”

There are also tools available to food manufacturers developed by the food industry to assist with collection of information and labelling. For example, the Product Information Form, or PIF, is an industry-agreed questionnaire developed by the food industry, for the food industry, in Australia and New Zealand.

The PIF allows companies to include a variety of information about food products and ingredients in a single document that meets information needs for legal and regulatory compliance in Australia and New Zealand, in a standardised manner.

The PIF is an industry tool that can improve company efficiency and reliability in managing product specification and other related data when applied across the sector.

With respect to allergen management and labelling, the Allergen Bureau has a comprehensive website and tools available to assist with allergen risk assessment and labelling (https://allergenbureau.net).

“At the end of the day, as a food manufacturer, whether big or small, Australian or not, you have an important role in ensuring that consumers continue to enjoy a variety of safe and nutritious food that will contribute to their wellbeing,” Fleming said.

Mandatory requirements for labelling – the Big 11

1. Name of food
2. Name and address
3. Lot identification
4. Allergen declaration
5. Ingredient list
6. Date marking
7. Storage and usage instructions
8. Nutrition information
9. Characterising ingredients
10. Country of origin
11. Quantity marking

Free food allergy e-training program designed for cooks and chefs

A free, potentially life-saving online food allergy training program for cooks and chefs, funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, has today been launched by the National Allergy Strategy, a partnership between the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA).

Developed in conjunction with chefs and cooks with experience in commercial kitchens, “All About Allergens: The next step for cooks and chefs” focuses on food preparation, handling and storage, and highlights the importance of effective communication between the kitchen and other staff and consumers with food allergy.

“Food allergy rates are continuing to rise in Australia, and we know that the majority of fatalities from food-induced anaphylaxis occur when people are eating out,” says Associate Professor Richard Loh, co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy and past President of ASCIA.  “So that is our area of focus with the All About Allergens online training program. We had great uptake of the first stage of the free All About Allergens program for people in the food service industry, so we’ve developed this next stage specifically for cooks and chefs to maximise their understanding of food allergies and hopefully reduce the number of food-induced allergic reactions we see.”

The first All About Allergens online food allergy training program has seen almost 11,000 food service industry workers from all over Australia enrol in the course since its launch in July 2017. This next stage of the training program provides information specific to cooks and chefs and aims to educate them on the safest way to handle, prepare, cook and store food to prevent food-related allergic reactions.

There are two versions of the new training program; one for general food services such as restaurants and cafes, and one for camp food services, such as school camps or sports camps. Free to access for all users and delivered in a convenient online format that can be completed at the user’s convenience, All About Allergens: The next step for cooks and chefs has been developed for anyone providing a food service.

Martin Latter, Group Director of Kitchens for AEG Ogden, who has managed some of Australia’s largest commercial kitchens and has even cooked for royalty, welcomed the new training program, saying, “It can be very difficult to manage all of the different dietary requests that come through a large kitchen, and often customers don’t have any concept of the type of pressure cooks and chefs are under and make requests at the last minute.

“Over my many years of working in large kitchens I’ve often seen little things happen that can put people with food allergies at serious risk, like not using the same utensils across different foods, or wearing gloves for hygiene purposes but not understanding the cross-contamination risk.”

“This training program will go a long way towards minimising the risk of food allergen cross-contamination by spelling out, in simple terms, the best way to reduce risk and help to keep our customers safe. It also provides some great resources and templates that can be used in commercial kitchens to help reduce the risk.”

Maria Said, CEO of A&AA, said, “Hospital admissions for food-induced allergic reactions have increased fivefold over the past 20 yearsii, and fatalities from food-induced anaphylaxis are increasing by about 7 per centiii every year. While we know that food allergen management in kitchens needs to improve, we’re certainly not wanting to point the finger at cooks and chefs. What we do want to do is encourage a sense of shared responsibility when it comes to preventing episodes of anaphylaxis and food-related allergic reactions. Customers with allergies are primarily responsible for their health needs and need to advise food service staff about their allergies, preferably in advance, and kitchen staff need to take their food allergy seriously and understand how to manage those requests.”

Another factor that the National Allergy Strategy has highlighted as essential in protecting consumers is initiating a mandatory Food Safety Supervisor program in all states, that includes food allergy management. Currently the role of Food Safety Supervisors is not standardised nationally and are only mandatory in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, and the focus is primarily on microbial contamination, with little focus on food allergy management, if any.

“There is a real opportunity to expand the role of food safety supervisors to educate and advise on best practice food allergy management,” says Maria Said.

Jaclyn Jauhianan, a 24-year-old university student who is allergic to honey and at risk of anaphylaxis to tree nuts, is pleased to see more being done to educate those working in food service about food allergies, saying “I dream about the day when I can eat out with my family and friends without having to be on high alert about my allergies even after I disclose them. When I can trust that the kitchen staff have taken my dietary requirements seriously and haven’t just brushed me off as being ‘fussy’. I know it is my responsibility to clearly communicate, but there definitely needs to be more awareness and education about managing food allergies in the food services industry.”

“It really needs to come from both sides,” continues Ms Said. “We urge customers with food allergies to contact the establishment about their food allergy requirements in advance when making the booking, and then to double check with staff when they arrive that their food allergy requirements have been understood and can be managed. We encourage all cooks and chefs to complete the new All About Allergens training course to ensure they understand their role in preventing food-related allergic reactions, including preventable deaths.”

Common causes of food-related allergic reactions in commercial settings:

  • Wait staff not communicating the customer’s food allergy to cooks and chefs
  • Food service staff presuming a menu choice is fine without checking ingredients
  • A chef or cook not checking ingredients in a garnish
  • Using utensils across multiple food types, including knives, tongs, spoons, etc
  • Not checking the ingredients label on pre-prepared products, e.g. mayonnaise, tomato sauce
  • Suppliers changing ingredients without informing the kitchen staff
  • Mistakes in communications: e.g. delivering special dietary requests to the wrong customer
  • Customers not informing kitchen staff about their allergy
  • Customers not clarifying whether their request is due to an allergy, an intolerance or that they simply dislike something i.e asking, “Does this have egg in it?”

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Recalls on the rise: five signs of a lagging food safety culture

A  food safety certification and training organisation says the record spike in food recalls within Australia – up 45 per cent in 2018, compared with 2017 – is more than just back luck. It is likely a result of poor training, poor controls, and a lack of accountability – or a more concerning underlying problem with organisational food safety culture.

SAI Global has audited thousands of food retailers and manufacturers – 550 in 2018 alone – to ensure they comply with food industry regulations, and trains thousands of Australians annually on food safety through its tailored training, public courses and webinars. In the industry, it often identifies the mistakes that food businesses make in food storage, processing, packaging, distribution, display and handling. These are often related to the lack of skills and knowledge of food handlers, underpinned by a lack of commitment from those who manage the business.

Brad Costello, Food Safety Training Specialist at SAI Global, says: “Recently released recall statistics show that undeclared allergens, microbial contaminations, presence of foreign matter and incorrect labelling have been major reasons for the rise in recalls. In addition, dozens of food businesses across the country are fined each year for food practices that compromise customer health and safety – from poor hygiene, to failing to eradicate pests, to storing food at the wrong temperatures.

“Implementing a strong food safety culture is a mind-set change for most businesses. As it is driven from the top of the organisation – and can only be successful with the commitment and contribution of everyone in the business – it requires businesses to formally train their staff to provide an environment that supports a high standard of organisational food culture. Regularly evaluating performances and implementing improvements to make, store, handle, sell or serve food that is safe, should be a top priority for all food businesses, and is what we aim to achieve through our audits.”

SAI Global’s five indicative failures of a poor food safety culture:

  1. Not keeping hot food ‘hot’ or cold food ‘cold’. In its audits, SAI Global still finds that food businesses are failing in managing basic temperature controls. Storing, displaying or serving food at unsafe temperatures can encourage pathogens already present in some foods to grow, with potentially deadly consequences. For potentially hazardous foods including meats, seafood, dairy, cooked rice, and prepared fruits and vegetables, these controls have been in place for decades.
  2. Ineffective cross contamination management. Numerous food businesses Australia-wide have been fined thousands of dollars for storing or displaying raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs alongside ready-to-eat foods. Cross contamination can introduce pathogens, such as salmonella and e.coli, onto ready-to-eat products or undeclared allergens. This can be easily avoided with correct barrier proofing, storage controls, adequate cleaning and training.
  3. Incorrectly labelling a packaged food. The consequences of mislabelling food can be fatal. A couple of years ago, a child in Sydney had an anaphylactic reaction after consuming a drink that was wrongly labelled ‘dairy free’. The business was required to pay $55,000 in fines and costs. Already in 2018, there have been various examples of potentially avoidable labelling incidents. Labelling errors can also impact the accuracy of use-by dates: food that is past its use-by date can have too many pathogens or can form toxins, rendering it unsafe to eat.
  4. Poor staff hygiene and handling practices. Food handlers should avoid eating, coughing, sneezing or blowing over foods to minimise microbiological contamination. Poor handling practices can also lead to an increased risk of pathogen and foreign object contamination in preparation areas. Clean clothing, adequate handwashing, covering open wounds and a clean and tidy food production environment can minimise the possibility of direct product contamination.
  5. Failing to remove pests. Fines have been handed to numerous food businesses for failing to take reasonable measures to eradicate pests from their premises. Pests can get into food packaging and contaminate equipment and utensils. More worryingly, pets can transmit disease: rats and mice can transmit bacterial diseases, such as salmonellosis and leptospirosis, while cockroaches can transmit gastroenteritis and hepatitis A.

New partnership to develop treatment for peanut allergies

Prota Therapeutics, the developer of oral immunotherapies to treat food allergies, has partnered with Chr. Hansen. The partnership will assess the world’s best documented probiotic strain, LGG, in a Phase III clinical trial to develop a treatment for peanut allergy.

Approximately 220-250 million people globally suffer from food allergies, an increase of 350 per cent over the past 20 years. The economic impact for treatment of food allergies in the US has been estimated at US$24.8 billion per year[1].

Peanut allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, and one of the most common causes of death from food allergy2. More than 3 million Americans suffer from peanut allergy3 resulting in a global peanut allergy therapeutics market estimated to reach more than US$10 billion by 20252.

Prota Therapeutics is pioneering a new form of oral immunotherapy treatment. It combines Chr. Hansen’s specifically formulated LGG®4 probiotic strain, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, with targeted doses of proprietary formulations of peanut protein. The treatment is designed to reprogram the immune system’s response to peanuts and eventually develop tolerance.

One of the first Phase III clinical trials with a live microorganism

Building upon earlier trials conducted at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Prota Therapeutics is progressing towards a large-scale Phase III clinical trial, under a US Investigational New Drug Application (IND). The aim is to commercialize a medicinal product using a new pharmaceutical grade therapeutic dosage form for treating peanut allergy, and to explore indications for treating other food allergies.

“An effective therapy to treat peanut allergies is now a realistic target. Chr. Hansen is the ideal partner for us in this next step, both as the owner of one of the key components in the therapeutic product – LGG® – and as a leading expert in microbial solutions. Chr. Hansen has demonstrated the capability to deliver a pharmaceutical quality product that can be regulated as a biological therapeutic product.  Together with our proprietary peanut protein formulation, we aim to progress this through to commercialization of a treatment for peanut allergies,” says Dr. Suzanne Lipe, CEO at Prota Therapeutics.

Unlocking the potential of good bacteria

Numerous studies have highlighted the therapeutic potential of specific bacteria in preventing and treating metabolic, gastrointestinal and other diseases. Investigating specific bacteria for the treatment of food allergies is an area that has recently gained momentum.

Having produced LGG® for more than 10 years before fully acquiring LGG® from Valio in 2016, this new partnership is an example of how Chr. Hansen’s focus on industry leading product quality and clinical documentation can expand the potential of the LGG® probiotic strain into a new breakthrough area.

Christian Barker, Executive Vice President, Health & Nutrition at Chr. Hansen says:

“Chr. Hansen has the ability to maximize the value of a probiotic strain through our deep experience in microbial process development and formulation, our focus on quality, and our global reach. The partnership with Prota Therapeutics is part of our strategy to become the partner of choice for companies wanting to develop new generations of therapeutic microbes.”

According to the company, Lactobacillus rhamnosus is the best documented probiotic strain in the world. It has been used in food, dietary supplements and infant nutrition since 1990 and has shown beneficial effects on the gastrointestinal and immune system. It is supported by more than 300 clinical studies and 1,200 scientific publications.

 

[1] Gupta R et. al., JAMA Pediatrics 2013; 167(11):1026-103

2 DelveInsight, “Peanut Allergy – Competitive Landscape, Market Insights, Epidemiology and Market Forecast-2025”

3 Sicherer et. al., J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010;125:1322-6

4 LGG® is a trademark of Chr. Hansen

Lupin added to mandatory allergen labelling list

Lupin has been added to the list of nine allergens that must be declared on food labels, following consideration by ministers responsible for food regulation. Food businesses have 12 months from 25 May 2017 to meet the requirements.

FSANZ CEO Mark Booth said lupin (which like soy and peanut has the potential to be an allergen) has been recognised as a significant allergen in the European Union food regulations since 2007.

“Historically, most of the Australian sweet lupin crop has been used for animal feed or exported. However, because of its high protein and fibre content, lupin is increasingly being used in food for people.  Due to the increase in use in food and some cases of allergic response, FSANZ decided lupin should be one of the allergens requiring mandatory declaration,” said Booth.

“Australia and New Zealand have among the highest prevalence of allergic disorders in the developed world so it’s critical that food businesses get their allergen labelling right.

Booth added that some foods and food ingredients or their components can cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis. This is why there are mandatory allergen labelling requirements in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

“The ten foods/ingredients that must be declared are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy, wheat and now lupin. These ingredients must be declared on the food label whenever they are present as ingredients or as components of food additives or processing aids,” he said.

Booth said if the food is not in a package or is not required to have a label (for example, food prepared at and sold from a takeaway shop), allergen information must either be displayed in connection with the food or provided to the purchaser if requested.

“If you run a food business you are responsible for understanding and meeting mandatory allergen labelling requirements,” Booth said.

“In addition to protecting public health and safety, awareness can save time and money for food businesses by avoiding food recalls of their products. Many food recalls occur because the food business hasn’t declared an allergen that must be on the label. Undeclared allergens were responsible for 33 recalls in 2016. Food businesses can easily avoid the costly and lengthy process of a recall by staying on top of their responsibilities regarding allergen labelling requirements.”