According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 32 million people suffer from food allergies in the US today. Surprisingly, only nine foods cause most food allergies. They include milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and sesame, and all of them can cause concerning reactions ranging from mild (e.g., hives and lip swelling) to severe (e.g., anaphylaxis).
Of the nine major allergens, one is stirring up controversy in the food manufacturing industry: sesame.
Why Sesame is Controversial and How It Affects Food Manufacturing Practices
Sesame negatively affects an estimated one million people in the US—a concerning but not controversial fact. However, when President Biden signed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act into law in April 2021—declaring sesame a major allergen and requiring food manufacturers to label their products that use sesame or items derived from them by January 1, 2023— requiring food manufacturers to make major modifications to their processes.
This is not the first time food manufacturers have had to modify their processes to accommodate allergen labeling requirements. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA)—which went into effect in 2006—identified the original eight allergens and required manufacturers to label foods appropriately. And they did so, but instead of making the changes (e.g., optimizing their allergen management processes, establishing cleaning and storing protocols to alleviate the possibility of cross-contamination and labeling their products appropriately) required by the new FASTER Act, many companies chose an easier route.
“While the new law should enhance innovation for the large sesame-allergic community in need of safe and healthy foods, many baking companies are intentionally adding sesame flour to previously sesame-free food in order to avoid cleaning their lines,” says Jason Linde, senior vice president of Government and Community Affairs at FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) in an interview with FoodIngredientsFirst.
“This means that instead of innovating to provide the sesame-allergic community with more options, manufacturers and brands have done the exact opposite and restricted the food choices available to those allergic to sesame.”
Such an unanticipated practice has not gone unnoticed. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a regulatory petition with the FDA to—according to its press release—“crack down” on these manufacturers. In fact, the CPSI is “urging the FDA to declare the practice illegal under rules requiring food manufacturers to reduce risks.”
The ball—as they say—is now in the FDA’s court. If the FDA agrees that manufacturers should not intentionally add sesame to products as a way to comply with the FASTER Act, food manufacturers who took the allergen shortcut will need to immediately shift their response and their operations.
For manufacturers facing this very real possibility, there is some good news: food business software, such as FoodBusiness ERP, can help them easily manage allergens and support quality and compliance requirements, making this potential shift a smooth, streamlined endeavor.
How ERP Software Helps Ensure Proper Allergen Management Practices
FoodBusiness ERP is built in Sage X3 and configured by NexTec Group. As industry-specific software, it’s designed to manage and connect every aspect of a food manufacturing business, from production, operations and food safety to compliance and recall management. This means that manufacturers, such as yourself, can quickly address the changing requirements for labeling and cross-contamination compliance regarding sesame—and any other allergens that may be added in the future.
To explain how it works, here are FoodBusiness ERP’s food manufacturing features that ensure successful allergen management:
1. Recipe Management
Recipe management provides you with superb control over your recipes and formulations. All recipe storage, modification and data management takes place within one, centralized location. Ingredients for every recipe—including all allergens—are tracked in the ERP solution throughout a product’s lifecycle. If substitutions or alternate ingredients are used in the recipe during production, alerts programmed into the system notify users.
2. Production Sequencing
While it’s best practice to process products containing allergens on separate production lines, this is not always possible. This is where accurate scheduling becomes critically important.
With an ERP, users can configure the system to schedule production based on hierarchical sequencing that schedules allergen-free items at the start of the day followed by products that contain allergens. Additionally, sanitation and changeovers can be scheduled and accounted for to help avoid cross-contamination and minimize downtime.
3. Inventory Management
It’s critical that items containing allergens are stored and handled so cross-contamination doesn’t occur. Allergens must be labeled clearly, remain sealed until needed and stored in dedicated areas. Food business software tracks a product or ingredient from the time it enters a facility until it is delivered to the customer. Because of this, you’ll have complete visibility into your inventory with full knowledge of where ingredients are stored (e.g., segregated appropriately) and how they’re being handled, including the way a product is handled throughout production.
As with inventory management, ERP functionality ensures end-to-end traceability, including tracking ingredients bi-directionally throughout the supply chain. Should contamination occur or in the event of a recall, manufacturers can quickly and easily trace back to where that contamination occurred as well as quickly and accurately pinpoint which lots may be affected by an undeclared allergen—thus limiting the recall to only the affected lots and avoiding a larger recall in the process.
How the Future Looks with FoodBusiness ERP
How manufacturers will be affected by the FDA’s potential decision regarding the labeling and management of sesame is unknown, but what is known is the fact that manufacturers who choose to implement software like FoodBusiness ERP set themselves up for future success.
With our food software, you can:
- Support your SQF, BRCGS, FSMA, GMP, HACCP and HARCP compliance standards
- Ensure safety with full lot/serial traceability, product recall management and comprehensive allergen tracking
- Simplify production scheduling and minimize production line setup
FoodBusiness ERP customer Joseph Wiley, MIS Director, Elmer Candy, has benefitted from our quality and compliance features from the get go, noting that his team can generate a complete lot traceability report in seconds:
“We can quickly and easily trace raw ingredients from initial receipt through final sale.”– Joseph Wiley, MIS Director of Elmer Candy
He adds, “The entire system pays for itself within one season. The savings are visible and measurable.”
If you too want visible, measurable savings while also having a robust tool for efficiently and effectively managing allergens and remaining compliant with new sesame regulations, consider investing in FoodBusiness ERP.
Contact us today to learn more. We’d love to chat.