Business and Operations
Making a Plan
November 29, 2007 By Brian Hinton
Lakeview Bakery’s Brian Hinton writes about developing an allergen plan for the bakery.
Developing an allergen plan is a daunting task. Where to begin? First someone has to be given responsibility for implementing the plan. It does involve considerable documentation, so allow a year to put it into place and use a computer where possible.
We started by identifying the top allergens (and their derivatives) present in our bakery that appear on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) list of potential allergens (see below) and one that doesn’t (MSG). The top nine include: peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, fish and crustaceans, soy, wheat, and sulphites. Next we eliminated the ones not in use in the bakery, followed by an indepth review of incoming ingredients that may contain them. This allowed us to eliminate peanuts, fish and crustaceans, and sulphites (originally, the coconut we had been using contained sulphites; we now use a product that is sulphite-free). Wheat is present in all of our products and so appears on the ingredient listing. Eggs are used predominately in the pastry and cakes production, which happens during the second half of the shift, giving good control, but still must be included in the overall allergen plan. We have a saying: no egg in, no egg on – meaning if the recipe doesn’t contain egg it should never be egg washed. Dairy products come to us in many forms, from powder to liquid cream, butter and margarine.
These products are present in many mixes, and are difficult to control within a retail bakery. We look at soy as a natural substitute for milk products in many of the organic pastry products we produce. Of great concern to me has been the increase of soy as a “may contain” ingredient listing in raw materials where it has never appeared before. I would highlight this as one ingredient that requires high attention during implementation of the allergy plan. Tree nuts have a high media profile for their allergen risk, which places considerable pressure on bakers to identify any possible cross-contamination. We are seeing “may contain nuts” more and more on food labels, by companies looking to avoid litigation and all of the bad publicity that goes with it. We’re also seeing more and more schools with peanut and tree nut bans for snacks, lunches or any food entering the school: for the retail baker this means mom’s purchases for the kids must be 100 per cent guaranteed.
Sesame seeds have a low media profile, but are the most difficult of the allergens to control because of their small size. During the initial stages of making our allergen plan, we are eliminating sesame seeds as a topping to give us some control over their dispersion. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), although not on the CFIA’s allergen list, is one we now get asked about the most. Consequently one recipe that used a soup base with MSG has now been replaced.
Logically, allergen control should start at the point of introduction (in the receiving area) and follow through to the finished product suitably packaged and labelled for sale. We now record all incoming ingredient descriptions, complete with the package label and certificate of analysis. This year, we are starting to see more information appear on packages, often unexpectedly, which often means we have to consider replacing some of the ingredients because of the number of allergens listed. Bakery mixes, long considered the easy way of quickly giving great variety, now have a long list of possible allergens.
Our next step is to store the ingredients, map their location and make up cross-contamination notes (to include with them) which identify the risk. In this situation, the focus is usually on good housekeeping: enclosed containers, lids on all storage bins, and isolating the high risk allergens.
Our recipes will be grouped together according to allergens that are common to the group. Some notable exceptions are those that use reworked products: recipes with cake or bread crumbs. These products will now list all possible ingredient inclusions.
Our production schedule will be based on recipe ingredients and shared processing equipment. Clean-up procedures will be increased to reduce risk of contamination at each stage of the process. For the retail baker, every step of the production process poses a risk: multiple use of equipment should be changed; instead of using one scoop for all ingredients, buy more scoops; clean make-up tables after each product; segregate high risk products with special backing pans and racks; proofer racks need extra cleaning and maintenance; when cooling products always keep high risk products at the top of the cooling rack; get rid of old label stocks and constantly review current ones. For showcases, we list the allergens present in all the products and make the statement that these products could therefore be present in any of the baked goods.
Last but not least: staff training. All the control methods and documentation are for naught without good staff training and implementation. Changing bad habits presents the greatest challenge, but dealing with allergens is a new business climate to which bakers must now adapt.
Remember that these controls and labelling changes are the result of consumer requests for a safe food environment. As food manufacturers, we have a moral responsibility to the community at large to provide information that may impact their good health.
Brian Hinton is the owner of Lakeview Bakery in Calgary. Reach him by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health Canada – www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Allergy/Asthma Information Association – www.aaia.ca
Anaphylaxis Canada – www.anaphylaxis.ca
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