Food labelling laws force database upgrades

Local food manufacturers face database upgrades in the wake of labelling laws in the US that look set to spread to our shores. Food producers are required to track, collect and maintain specific information on eight major allergens.

The process is another complication for IT shops within the food industry, with data residing in organization's IT systems needing constant updates to accurately reflect ingredients used in products.

Under Australian Food standard 1.2.3 Mandatory Warning and Advisory Statement and Declaration, manufacturers knowing a food contains an allergen are required to label products to say so.

A proposed extension of the standard is likely to force manufacturers to specify foods containing anything from a group of allergens and will extend labelling to processing aids, additives or components, and in any amounts.

Food manufacturer Green's IT manager, Chris Barclay, said the proposed laws were not a worry as he has already deployed system for tracking allergen information.

"We track all the ingredients from raw material to finished product and keep a register of all ingredients used so that we can label everything appropriately," Barclay said.

Greens currently carries out the process through its ERP system (called BPCS). Barclay said tracking allergen information would be complex without a system to monitor the process.

"[It] certainly makes the tasks less onerous, and without it I imagine it would become quite difficult," Barclay said.

Barclay added he would not be interested in a separate system to specifically track ingredient information as proposed in the US, citing integration issues "with other areas, like inventory".

However, Pattie's Foods' quality and assurance manager Adrian Reece disagrees.

"I think that any IT system that could help this process would be useful...although I'm not sure how relevant it would be to this company. But I would certainly take a look at it," Reece said.

Reece said Pattie's monitors possible allergens in its products by subscribing to the food safety code and doing regular searches on the Internet for new known allergens that may put people at risk.

"We know which allergens we use and what products they're in, and they're all clearly labelled to avoid cross contamination," Reece said.

Maria Said, national president of FACTS (Food Anaphylactic Children Training and Support Centre), said that while larger manufacturers are "allergy aware", smaller companies lack resources and found it harder to track allergen information and keep it current.

Said called on Australian food manufacturers to work together on this issue, saying labelling inconsistencies confuse consumers.

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