Food allergy sufferers are dependent on accurate labelling of processed foods if they are to avoid specific allergens in their diets. Now international labelling laws have been introduced to make their lives easier and safer.
Danisco has responded to this new legislation by taking steps to help manufacturers avoid allergens in their products altogether.
Within food protection, the company has determined to eliminate all food allergens and ingredients that may contain allergens from its range of antimicrobials and protective cultures.
"This is the future, and we are not going back," Stphane Constant, food protection business director told FoodNavigator. "People are beginning to recognise that populations are becoming more sensitive to food allergies, and for us it was a no-brainer to remove all allergens from our products."
Constant says that this process was initiated a few years ago with the removal of lactose from some of the firm's Texel meat cultures. The production of Danisco's Nisaplin natural antimicrobial to media free of milk, soya, wheat and egg has now been completed.
"Nor do we include any of the allergens listed in the new legislation in the production or formulation of these products," said Constant.
"Most Texel meat maturation cultures and Holdbac protective meat cultures are now produced without allergens."
Allergen labelling regulations that came into force on 25 November require companies to label all pre-packed foods if they contain any of the 12 listed allergenic foods as an ingredient.
The mandatory inclusion on food labels of the most common food allergen ingredients and their derivatives covers cereals containing gluten, fish, crustaceans, egg, peanut, soybeans, milk and dairy products including lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphites.
Food companies are consequently a great deal more cautious now; there is growing public awareness about food allergens and a recall can cost millions and irreparably damage a build-up reputation.
As Constant points out, this is not a small issue. "We estimate that between one and three per cent of the population of the US and EU have food allergies," he said. "We are talking about millions of people. There were 125 deaths in the US last year due to food allergies."
The development of entirely non-dairy Nisaplin natural antimicrobial has been achieved by replacing traditional foaming and scooping processes with modern, safer and more consistent micro-filtration and ultra-filtration technology at the Nisaplin production plant.
"Today, our non-dairy Nisaplin is Kosher certified. We also aim to get ISO 14000 certification with full health, safety and environment clearance by the spring of this year," said Constant.
Danisco is currently lobbying for a change in the law regarding the definition of Nisaplin. The current definition is that it is a dairy media, but Constant says that regulators have acknowledged the need to change this.
"There are countries already accepting Nisaplin, but we would like international recognition from Codex that this product is completely dairy-free," said Constant.
Customers have also been involved in qualifying the final products.
"Our allergen-free Texel meat maturation culture and Holdbac meat protective culture products are staggered for full implementation by this spring - but currently we have more than 11 strains and 39 products that are fully allergen free.
"Other benefits of our newly developed processes are higher yield in terms of cell density and improved nitrate reductase activities."