Mitigate the Risk of Allergens in Food Production and Distribution

Business interests demand the most effective risk mitigation and consumer protection in the most dependable, efficient, and economic way. Regulations define, but do not simplify allergen management for food companies, especially when they do business in multiple regions or countries. Read our whitepaper on mitigating these and other risks allergens in food production and distribution.

Mitigate the risk of allergens in food production and distribution Food sector whitepaper For companies that manufacture and distribute food products, the presence of allergens in raw materials, ingredients, recipes, and finished goods is a significant risk. Consumers unknowingly exposed to allergens can become very ill or lose their lives. Regulation and business ethics compel food companies to track and control the allergens throughout their production and supply chain. In ColumbusFood for Microsoft Dynamics NAV, we offer a solution that includes a strong set of features to make end-to-end allergen management reliable and less onerous. Mitigate the risk of allergens in food production and distribution The urgency of effective allergen management When it comes to allergen management, food companies are accountable to four sets of stakeholders with shared interests. Consumers depend on them to safeguard their wellbeing and help them avoid allergic reactions. Regulators implement varying sets of mandates to enforce stringent allergen management across the industry. Business interests demand the most effective risk mitigation and consumer protection in the most dependable, efficient, and economic way. Companies purchasing from a producer or distributor of food items also need to be assured of effective allergen management by their trading partner, or they increase their own risk and liability. Consumers count on you If you have a food allergy or know someone who does, you may have experienced firsthand how dangerous it can be when the body’s immune system responds to a substance in food as a threat and musters its defenses. Currently, there is neither cure nor treatment for food allergies. You must avoid all foods that include the triggering element. Allergen avoidance requires careful navigation by the people affected. Because many allergen- inducing foods are commonly used in recipes that determine the production of food products, it is not always easy for persons with allergies to make sure they stay away from them. They need to rely on the manufacturers and distributors to exercise uncompromising control over the use and presence of allergens in their products and facilities, and have confidence in their ability to disclose it accurately and in a timely manner. If food companies cannot make sure of this, they could harm consumers or even employees working in their own facilities or those of a reseller or distributor. In addition, they might expose their own business and that of the hospitality, food service, and distribution companies that resell, serve, or use their products, to high risk. Complexities of allergen regulation Regulations define, but do not simplify allergen management for food companies, especially when they do business in multiple regions or countries. For instance, governments in Europe and the United States attempt to protect consumers and industries from allergen-related risks. Their approaches are similar, but not the same. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration identifies eight foods or ingredients which cause close to 90 percent of the most dangerous food allergy reactions: eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, and wheat. The European Union, on the other hand, names 14 allergens in a more comprehensive manner: eggs, fish, celery, grains containing gluten, milk and lactose, shellfish, mollusks, mustard, sesame seed, soy, sulfite, lupine, peanuts, and nuts such as macadamia, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan, and pistachios. Many countries mandate that food companies also disclose on their packaging and labels the presence or likely presence of allergens—the conditions typically expressed as “may contain” or ”may have been exposed”—in their facilities, equipment, or products. In contrast, others mandate disclosure only when allergens are unequivocally present in their products, and pointing out ”may contain” conditions is left to the discretion of individual companies. In those situations, some governments only provide high-level guidelines to companies to alert consumers when products may have been exposed to allergens in their facilities or during the production process. It is up to each company to be fully informed and current regarding the regulatory mandates that apply in the countries where they do business. Need for comprehensive risk management efforts As you know, allergens do not change their properties in any kind of processing or handling. Therefore, if you manufacture, process, and distribute food items, allergen management needs to pervade all your business processes. It needs to range from product research and recipe planning, to purchasing, vendor management, storage, and transportation, to production and on to distribution, labeling, and the cleaning and sanitation of your equipment and facilities. If it is even remotely possible that a product includes allergens, you must be able to make disclosure and warn consumers. A solution that enables comprehensive allergen management ColumbusFood has the expertise to help you comply with allergen-related regulations in different countries. When we work with our clients we make sure that allergen management receives the right attention. ColumbusFood includes a range of capabilities that you can use to manage and control allergens in your operation. Once you add allergen information to any item, it remains trackable through the mixing of recipes, the production of finished products, and distribution and sales. We have structured the solution’s allergen management features to keep the process reliable and simple—centralized, within a single resource, and free from redundancies. You don’t need to rely on systems or processes outside of ERP to manage allergens in your processes. The allergen management capabilities in ColumbusFood are part of the standard solution, not a module that you need to acquire separately. Creating an allergen management plan Before you take any measures to document and manage allergens and allergen exposure in your operation, it would be helpful to take a complete inventory of the possibilities of allergen contamination in your processes business- wide. Specify each instance of possible allergen exposure with its likely consequences, including financial impacts and penalties. That will help you make a strong business case for using technology and implementing process changes to address your own and your distributors’ and customers’ allergen-related risks. Pervasive information and consistent allergen management process When materials and items become recipe ingredients, the allergen and ”may contain” information pervades, and it remains intact and specific when the production output from recipes becomes a sold item or is used in another recipe. By the solution’s logic, there cannot be more allergens linked to a finished or intermediate product than were originally linked to the ingredients. The final or intermediate production output may be tagged with multiple allergen linkages because of its ingredients. Thus, if you provide and record correct, complete allergen-related data early in your process, it remains so until products leave your operation. Shifting the perspective to specific allergens, in the new release of ColumbusFood you can also choose an allergen or the ”may contain” or ”may have been exposed” information to establish a complete list of all items, ingredients, recipes, and products that do contain that allergen or that might contain or might have been exposed to allergens. In many food production and distribution operations, process gaps in allergen management present additional risks for companies and eventual consumers. You will want to structure your processes in such a way that you can prevent the addition of allergenic items to recipes and production runs by production teams. ColumbusFood provides a warning when a user adds an allergen-linked item at the production stage. Extending allergen management and risk mitigation through your entire operation ColumbusFood also enables users’ allergen awareness when items are ordered, sold, purchased, or transferred. A fact box linked to an item’s document line highlights the fact that an item contains or may contain allergens, and links to all allergen related data available in the system for that item. Users can then take the right steps to manage these items in the company’s bills-of- material and processes. Similarly, in the actual BOMs, the formula, item process, co-product or by-product, and package pages draw attention to allergen information by means of differently colored lines and fact boxes at both the BOM and BOM version levels. Allergen-controlled production planning In production planning, ColumbusFood provides allergen visibility in various processes and events. In batch planning, for instance, when many different combinations of allergens can occur in various items, you can sort items based on the presence or absence of allergens. What’s more, you can review the dates and equipment when and where items containing the same set of allergens are produced. Both the item and the order detail sections of the batch planning worksheet bring attention to the presence of allergens by means of a fact box alert much like what you see, for example, in order entry. New allergen-cleanse, non- production event You already had the ability to schedule non- production events and sequence them along with production orders to allow enough time for equipment cleaning between production runs. In the new version of ColumbusFood, you also can choose a non-production event of the type allergen cleanse to bring greater transparency to allergen control. Ensuring the right employee allergen management actions The solution’s workflow function includes a pre-built call-to-action workflow that you can use to ensure users responsible for allergen management and control take all the right steps. This functionality can be extremely valuable when there are changes to the allergens connected to ingredients or present in formulae. Employees need to be aware of such changes and should have a way to review and amend the processes to do with the items concerned. They may, for example, want to update labels. The workflow function helps you ensure that no damaging process gaps occur. When, during production, the process consumes items that are not part of the BOM that defines the output, the allergen awareness built into BOM lines cannot effectively apply. Your production may then include allergens that are not found in typical iterations of the output item. To draw attention to this risk factor and enable workers to take appropriate next steps, ColumbusFood provides a warning in that event. Current capabilities to support allergen management Even before you upgrade to the newest release of ColumbusFood, you can use several features in the solution’s current version to manage important aspects of allergen control and reporting. Here is a brief overview: Use vendor certification to track which suppliers have an allergen control plan. Assign bins to specific items, and use putaway logic to ensure that allergenic items are properly isolated in your warehouse, so they cannot contaminate other stored items, for example, by means of dust Assign warehouse class codes to items, as well as to zones and bins, to ensure items are placed only in bins with a matching warehouse class code. Item attributes can provide visibility of the presence of allergens during production planning. Note, however, the limitations in using this feature: You can only associate a single value to an item, whereas when you deal with allergens you usually need to be able to connect multiple allergens with an item. Plan non-production events and sequence them along with production orders to allow for adequate clean-up time between production runs. Lot tracing of raw materials, intermediates, and finished items lets you trace lots from receipt to final disposition. Process data collection can help enforce that labels are inspected when ingredients are received. You can design and print labels to properly identify allergens. Next steps To learn more about how Columbus can help you with allergen management, see a demo, or have your questions answered, contact your local Columbus office. At Columbus, we are committed to enabling comprehensive, dependable allergen management for companies that make and market food products. While large enterprises typically have the resources and budgets to implement comprehensive allergen management efforts, it can be more challenging for smaller, growing companies to keep up with regulations and realize effective allergen management. In ColumbusFood, we offer a solution that can help you control allergens and manage your industry-specific processes and activities within a highly usable, manageable, unified ERP environment. We are also ready to share our expertise with food companies and our implementing technology partners.