Baker Perkins line could cut allergen cross-contamination risk

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Asthma, Food, Allergy

A line of cookie, cracker and biscuit forming equipment has been upgraded to allow for different levels of hygiene requirements to suit various cleaning approaches and to eliminate the risk of allergen or pathogen cross-contamination, claims Baker Perkins.

Food recalls due to cross contamination of allergens or incorrect allergen labelling have proven an expensive problem for the food industry and dangerous for food-allergic consumers.

Allergens present a difficult problem in cookie manufacturing. Even with precise cleaning, a new batch of dough can be contaminated if it touches small amounts of allergenic proteins remaining on mixing tools. This problem is compounded if manufacturers produce different biscuits on the same production line.

When a recipe includes nuts or other allergen-causing ingredients, cross contamination needs to be avoided in product changeover.

The bakery equipment supplier is launching its reworked TruClean range – wire cutter, rotary moulder and rotary cutter - at the Las Vegas based IBIE trade event this week, and said that the line allows manufacturers to a select a grade of hygiene applicable to their particular operation.

Baker Perkins claims the modified equipment can also meet the high production standards required for Kosher, organic or GMO-free bakery manufacture.

Varying hygiene grades

The supplier explained that the line provides a hygiene level that is designed for dry or wet cloth cleaning when there are no cross-contamination issues. The second sanitation level is said to be applicable for low pressure wet or chemical cleaning if there is potential for cross-contamination onto food product surfaces, or in the product zone.

Meanwhile, the new third hygiene grade, continued the supplier, has been developed for high-pressure wet, steam or chemical cleaning when a high risk of cross contamination exists, particularly post-baking.

“Three important principles formed the basis of this re-design: reducing any accumulation of unwanted materials; improving visibility and access for cleaning; and simplifying the removal and replacement of components,”​ said the company.

The reworked wirecut machine, claims Baker Perkins, has a new method of sealing the ends of the hoppers to the feed rolls, and can eliminate leakage for easier maintenance, while the rotary moulder has been upgraded to include a new fixed knife arrangement to allow for greater reliability and faster changeover.

The rotary cutter for crackers and hard sweet biscuits is applicable for high outputs and precise weight control, added the firm.

Cross-contamination risk

Recent US based research, published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, ​found that consumers are increasingly ignoring “may contain” or “made in a facility that processes…” warning labels, even though they signify “a small but real” ​risk.

The researchers examined 57 products with advisory labels for egg, 59 for milk, and 112 for peanut. The numbers of products with no allergen labels at all were 117, 134, and 120 for egg, milk, and peanut, respectively. They tested foods in portions equal to the recommended serving size, and a lower limit for detection was set at 2.5 parts per million.

They found detectable allergens in 5.3 per cent of advisory-labeled products and 1.9 per cent of similar products without advisory statements. Among foods from small companies, 5.1 per cent were contaminated compared with 0.75 per cent from large companies, the researchers wrote.

Products from small companies were found to be more likely to contain milk – but not egg or peanut – than products from large companies.

“These findings indicate a real risk for consumers and highlight the need to increase awareness among manufacturers, particularly from smaller companies,”​ the study’s authors wrote.

They also called for more research into the level of contamination that would result in allergic reaction, as well as changes in manufacturing procedures, and more widespread testing to allow production of safer products that would not require advisory labels.

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