Dutch Spices claims to have become the first company in Europe to offer a range of dry spice blends, marinades and sauces that are free from the 24 allergens on the Dutch food allergen database (Levensmiddelendatabank).
“There’s no other company in herbs, spices, sauces and marinades with the facilities which make it possible to give these guarantees: the 24 allergens will not be used as ingredients and will not be present as cross contamination,” Betty Groen, marketing advisor at Dutch Spices, told Foodnavigator.
The new EU allergen legislation that comes into effect at the end of December 2014 requires food manufacturers to highlight allergens such as nuts, milk and cereals containing gluten in their products' ingredients lists. Operated from the Dutch Voedingscentrum, the database goes one step further - providing information not only on the 14 allergens that are subject to EU labelling laws, but also on 10 additional substances that have been found to induce hypersensitive reaction.
Under the new law, for manufacturers using products from Dutch spices, there will be no allergens to declare.
Groen said a modern production site, skilled staff and comprehensive knowledge about allergen-free products and processes combined with implementation of the VITAL (Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling) system, which originates from Australia and New Zealand, had enabled the company to make this pledge.
“Dutch Spices observes the highest level [level 1] and even goes a step further. In addition to the 14 legal allergens, the absence of cacao, glutamate, lactose, chicken, coriander, maize, legumes, beef, pork and carrots – the additional allergens included on the LeDa list – are managed.”
Free-from formulation challenges
She admitted that eliminating some of the allergens from recipes had proved tricky – in particular those such as gluten, mustard, egg, peanuts, nuts, sesame and celery – that are widely used in seasonings and mainstream food products.
“Our biggest challenge is making products that are affordable, with a similar price point to their conventional counterparts, and that taste as good, or ideally better, without being able to use a lot of common ingredients,” said Groen.
As an example, she said making an allergen-free breadcrumb for a similar price as a regular breadcrumb proved challenging, as the allergen-free substitutes for flours with wheat or gluten pushed up the price to almost double.
“Unfortunately in this case we weren’t able to offer the allergen-free product for a similar price, but normally we try to keep to a similar price level because our mission is to make allergen-free foods available to everyone – not just those who can afford them.”