Allergen Free

The allergen-free label indicates food that doesn’t contain any allergens.

Bakery Food Allergen Safety Precautions

What are bakery food allergen safety precautions?

The ‘Big 8’ food allergens include tree nuts, peanuts, shell fish, egg, soy, fish, milk, and wheat proteins – all proteins! Other potential allergens foods are sesame seeds, celery, buckwheat, mustard, and lupin. Regulation of these foods are driven by individual countries. Allergens are a big challenge for the baking industry.

What is the single largest recall category in the United States?

According to FDA and USDA statistics, the single largest reason (60%) for food recalls was undeclared allergens through the first two quarters in 2013. And guess what, undeclared allergens is also the single largest reason for food recalls in Australia – representing 50 % of all food recalls.

Which country has implemented the most comprehensive food allergen program?

  If you guessed New Zealand or Australia, then you are correct. The United States isn’t even a close second. Mostly unknown to the United States, New Zealand and Australia have quietly developed a VITAL food allergen program. VITAL stands for Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labeling. VITAL® allows food producers to assess the impact of allergen cross contact and provide appropriate precautionary allergen labelling on their products. VITAL® was developed to make a single simple standardized precautionary statement available to assist food producers in presenting allergen advice consistently for allergic consumers. It requires acknowledgement that a population “threshold” or reference dose does exist.

In the United States, our government has set an acceptable allergen level of less than one percent. But the NZ/Australian VITAL program has determined that not all allergens are created equal, and consumers have different degrees of sensitivities. This means that a maximum “dose level” is the best guideline for consumers with allergy sensitivity – which makes sense. As a result, the VITAL program has established the following ‘variable’ allergen levels. Notice that wheat and soy protein has the highest 1.0 mg level.

  1. Peanut Protein: Panel recommends a Reference Dose set at 0.2 mg.
  2. Milk Protein: Panel recommends a Reference Dose set at 0.1 mg.
  3. Egg Protein: Panel recommends a Reference Dose be set at 0.03 mg.
  4. Hazelnut Protein: Panel recommends a Reference Dose set at 0.1 mg.
  5. Soy Protein: Panel recommends a Reference Dose set at 1.0 mg.
  6. Wheat Protein: Panel recommends a Reference Dose set at 1.0 mg.
  7. Shrimp Protein: Panel recommends a Reference Dose be set at 10 mg, etc.


What are the largest risk allergen consumption areas?

In my opinion, food service restaurants represent the greatest allergen risk exposure consumption area. The reason for this is the limited space most restaurants have for a designated allergen free area for food preparation. To compensate for this space shortfall, many restaurants have implemented ‘Precautionary Statements’ that are used to inform the food allergic consumer about the potential for trace levels of unlabeled allergens. A ‘Precautionary Statement’ may be worded as “May Contain” which means that the allergen(s) is not in the product’s recipe but could be present as result of the manufacturing process regardless of our best efforts to exclude it. These allergens will not be included in the ingredient list. At other times, the food ingredient statement may state that both Contains and May Contain mean that if you are sensitive to the specific allergen(s) in the list, no matter which way it is listed, you should avoid this product. I don’t like precautionary statements because they represent a catch-all business position that leaves some consumers at risk for the benefit of the company.

What is the FDA’s role?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates food allergens through the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). FDA requires a food manufacturer to identify the major allergens on packaged food. FALCPA was designed to alert consumers to the presence of allergens in packaged food. Additionally, FDA recommends that allergen-sensitive consumers request ingredients when dining in restaurants and other venues in which the food being consumed is not labeled. To further protect consumers, the FDA is conducting a risk assessment to establish regulatory thresholds for major food allergens as defined in FALCPA. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) contains requirements for the food industry, through the preventive controls rule, to prevent cross contact of allergen ingredients to non-allergen ingredients. Additionally, the supplement to the 2009 FDA Food Code recommends that the “Person in Charge” in a retail food establishment is trained in food allergy awareness.

For more information on developing bakery allergen process and label management for both large and small bakeries, contact Dr. Darrel Suderman for a consultation.