Allergen Labelling Mistakes Lead to Recalls

The leading cause of all food recalls in Canada is incorrect package labelling with undeclared allergens topping the list (for Canada see CFIA Recall List, and the United States, see FDA Recalls). Labelling mistakes, as simple as a missing ingredient, can incur significant recall costs and negatively impact brand loyalty.

“Undeclared allergens top reason for food recalls.”

How to Avoid Allergen Labelling Errors

There are many components to developing packaging and it involves numerous areas of the business. Keeping on top of all the details can be a challenge making it is all too easy to miss an ingredient. Here are the five most common reasons why allergen labelling mistakes happen:
1. Missed Ingredient – Recipe Stage
An ingredient is missed while documenting a new formula, particularly when the recipe has gone through a few changes.
2. Missed Ingredient – Proofing Error
If you have ever had to write an article, you likely will have had the unpleasant experience of having someone else find an error, even though you had proofed it numerous times. This happens because the mind knows what it should say so that is what it sees. This often happens with package labels as well. Couple this with the fact that there is usually a rush to get the final art approved to meet a print deadline. Details can be easily missed.
3. Missed Ingredient – Graphics Stage
Transferring the formula to the package graphics is another stage where ingredients can be dropped.
4. Mixed Packages – Filling Stage
The packages are mixed up during the filling and packaging of the product.
5. Mixed Print – Production Stage
The packaging supplier mixed up the labels or packaging during their production.

The good news is that these incidences are avoidable.

Three Steps to Avoid Package Labelling Mistakes

STEP 1 – Check the Final Formula, Again

Before signing off on the package labelling, go back to the final formula and check each ingredient to ensure it is included. Confirm with your purchasing and operations staff that the ingredients listed are what they are actually buying and using in the recipe. Then ask a couple of people not involved in the development process to compare the ingredient list to the final formula and proof for spelling.
The responsibility for labelling accuracy rests with you, the brand owner, when you sign off on the print, even if the error occurred during the graphic design. Always leave yourself enough time to go through the process above to ensure the accuracy of your label.

STEP 2 – Check the primary package labelling 3 times against the order

1. On the production line, before filling, compare the labelling to the order and sign off.
2. During the production run, periodically check to ensure the variety and print and are correct. This will ensure old packaging or other varieties have not been mixed into the batch.
3. At the end of the production run, check the print again and sign off. This will ensure you were still using the correct label.
Lastly, ensure that the packaging is removed from your production line before starting to fill the next order.

STEP 3 – Confirm that your packaging supplier has implemented proper procedures

Check with your label or packaging supplier to ensure they have implemented food safe measures to avoid receiving mixed varieties. It is common for packaging suppliers to group several varieties together during the printing process so it is easy to mix up the various prints. It is important they have implemented proper procedures, commonly known as line clearance procedures, to ensure this does not occur.

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