In April 2021, President Biden signed the Food Allergy, Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act into law, officially designating sesame as the ninth major allergen in the US. The legislation requires that all products that use sesame seeds or items derived from them will have to be labelled accordingly after January 1, 2023.
Aside from the sesame-specific portion of the law, the FASTER Act also emphasizes the role the federal government will take in creating a more proactive approach to food allergy detection and prevention.
While the passing of the FASTER Act is a big win for consumers with sesame allergies – according to research published by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), one in four people, or 85 million Americans, is affected by food allergies – it does complicate things for food manufacturers.
Below, we look at what the FASTER Act means for food and beverage manufacturers and the role of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software in helping to effectively manage allergens now and in the future.
What Does the FASTER Act Mean for Food Manufacturers?
Food and beverage manufacturers are no strangers to the importance of allergen management. Between strict production sequencing plans, intense cleaning processes during changeovers and scrupulous label management protocols, most food and beverage manufacturers who deal with allergens know how to keep their products (and consumers) safe.
The FASTER Act marks the first major change to US allergen requirements since 2006, when the Food Allergen Labelling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) went into effect. That means that many food and beverage manufacturers haven’t had to shift operations to account for a new allergen before.
So, what does adjusting operations for compliance to the FASTER Act look like? For suppliers and manufacturers, it means modifying packaging and processes to ensure that sesame is managed as carefully as all other allergens. Prior to the FASTER Act, for example, companies had no legal obligation to declare sesame as an ingredient and could instead label it as part of a “natural flavor” or “spice.” Now, businesses across the supply chain must label sesame in accordance with FDA regulations on allergens.
In terms of processing modifications, food and beverage manufacturers working with sesame must set up allergen management control points to limit cross-contamination and prevent a food safety hazard from occurring. Examples of when these control points should be implemented are during ingredient or product storage, at production, during sanitation processes and at packaging.
Where ERP Software Fits In
It’s never been more critical for food and beverage manufacturers to have the tools in place to effectively segregate, track and document allergens throughout the production process. That’s where industry-specific software comes in. An ERP system is key to creating a successful allergen management program in your facility. Here’s how:
When an item enters your facility, it’s your responsibility to verify the ingredient and ensure it’s up to your strict manufacturing standards. Items containing allergens must be stored and handled in such a way that cross-contamination does not occur. To do this, items containing allergens should be stored in dedicated areas, be labelled clearly and remain sealed until needed.
An ERP solution tracks a product from the time it enters your facility until it is delivered to your customer. Because an ingredient’s every movement is traced and automatically recorded in an ERP system, manufacturers have complete visibility into how a product is handled throughout production. This control helps limit cross-contamination and ensure segregation occurs during the entire manufacturing process.
To ensure safety, it’s critical that manufacturers have control over their recipes and formulations. When a new recipe is created, each ingredient is traced in an ERP system and the presence of allergens is easily captured and tracked throughout a product’s lifecycle. Alerts programmed into the system notify users if alternative ingredients or substitutes are used during production that may contain an allergen.
To avoid cross-contamination, food and beverage manufacturers should ideally process products containing allergens on separate, distinct production lines. When this is not a viable option, however, accurate scheduling becomes a critical component in effective allergen management. An ERP solution like FoodBusiness ERP can be configured to schedule production based on hierarchical sequencing. For example, a company that manufacturers crackers should produce allergen-free items at the start of the day, followed by a product like sesame snaps. Strict sanitation and changeover processes are scheduled and accounted for in an ERP and should be scheduled before the next batch runs to avoid cross-contamination.
While traceability is critical in all food and beverage manufacturing, when it comes to allergen management, it’s essential. Traceability functionality in an ERP solution tracks ingredients bi-directionally throughout the supply chain, so manufacturers have complete visibility into where an item came from, where it was used and where it went. In the event of a recall, an ERP can quickly and accurately pinpoint which lots may be affected by something like an undeclared allergen. With this visibility and control, manufacturers can limit the recall to only the affected lots, avoiding a large-scale recall that could be detrimental to their business.
If your food or beverage business is struggling with its allergen management processes, let us show you how FoodBusiness ERP can help. As a single system to manage your entire business, including production and operations, finance, food safety, compliance, quality and more, FoodBusiness ERP provides you with the out-of-the-box functionality needed to be successful. Reach out to us for more information. We’d love to chat.