- Publication date : 2022-11-01
Allergen management under a voluntary PAL regulatory framework – A survey of Canadian food processors (2022). Heliyon, 8(11), e11302
Freely available at the following link: https://www-sciencedirect-com.acces.bibl.ulaval.ca/science/article/pii/S2405844022025907
Canadian regulations require food business operators (FBOs) to implement preventive controls to manage allergens and ensure their accurate declaration. However, the use of precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) is voluntary and competent authorities provide limited guidance on its use. The objective of this study was to present an overview of Canadian FBOs' current allergen management practices, including the mechanisms used to evaluate the need for PAL in finished products, and to investigate potential areas for improvement. Canadian FBOs were invited to answer an online survey of 48 questions covering allergen management practices and perceptions. Eighty-four full survey responses (margin of error of 9% at a 90% confidence level) were obtained. Differences in responses to multiple choice questions per company size were determined using chi-square and Fisher's exact tests. Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to analyse responses to rating or forced ranking questions. Survey respondents' allergen management practices were based on a combination of recognized best practices, third-party quality systems' standards, and regulatory requirements. Concerning practices related to the criteria used to reach PAL decisions were noted, which could be addressed with increased awareness and use of risk-based approaches and a clearer regulatory policy. Analytical testing applicability and interpretation, access to information on unintentional allergen presence in raw materials, and clarity on the expectations related to the current regulatory framework on food allergens and its enforcement, were identified as challenges faced by Canadian FBOs. The results of this survey and its analysis could be used by regulators – to inform potential policy changes, by FBOs – to map industry practices, and by allergic consumers – to better understand how manufacturers manage allergens in their operations.