David Fiske, Senior Vice President
Lori Hunter, Executive Vice President
Trends in food allergen risks are a serious issue affecting the food processing industry. For businesses, the challenge isn’t just in controlling allergen cross-contamination in their own supply and processing chain, but also in managing risks extending to ingredient suppliers, vendor packaging, storage facilities and even carriers transporting products. This reality has resulted in a number of costly liability claims.
Managing and Mitigating Food Allergen Contamination Risks
When it comes to managing food allergen risks, food processing operations need to be proactive and stay informed. Those that don’t, run the risk of paying direct costs associated with the removal of select products that have already been distributed, a full product recall, disposal of a product, regulatory citations and potential lawsuits as well as reputational damage.
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 has identified the top eight major allergenic foods as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. The FDA advises operations processing these foods to consider replacing them and changing processing controls if it’s possible to do so. It also recommends developing proper labeling of food products that includes fully disclosing all recognized allergens, including certain dyes, food colorings, flavorings and/or preservatives, and conducting regular product label reviews to ensure that product updates reflect these formulation changes.
Today, the 2004 Food Allergen and Consumer Protection Act and the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act have shifted their attention to focusing more on preventing food allergen contamination problems before they occur. This includes implementing stricter control practices, such as establishing separate processing areas, developing proper sanitation procedures and implementing a worker training program. In addition, food processors should do the following:
- Have a thorough understanding of the potential allergens they are working with.
- Assess new ingredients before they are added to products.
- Isolate all potential allergens from “free from” processing.
- Evaluate all product labeling and packaging for allergen risk language.
- Review and test recall procedures for all products.
When quoting product contamination insurance for your clients, it is important to understand the exposures for each individual risk. For example, if your insured provides a product to a major retail chain, they would have a third party exposure. If the product sold to the retailer is contaminated by an allergen or mislabeled by failing to mention an allergen, your insured could be exposed to a large third party claim. Making sure you are recommending the proper coverages and enhancements to insured’s is critical with product contamination insurance.
In today’s environment, insureds need product recall or product contamination insurance in addition to general liability coverage. At Worldwide Facilities, we offer insurance products that address food allergen contamination risks based on the insured’s individual needs and exposures.