Did you know an estimated 2.5 million Canadians, or about seven percent of the population, suffer from a food allergy? Food allergies are a growing concern in Canada and worldwide, but there is no clear explanation why. According to Health Canada, the most common food allergens in Canada are eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, seafood (fish, crustaceans, shellfish), sesame, soy, sulphites, tree nuts and wheat.
A food allergy occurs when an individual’s immune system overreacts to a food substance, identifying it as dangerous. Reactions can be mild in the form of skin irritations and an upset stomach among others to more life threatening situations like closing of the throat and swelling of the tongue.
Those most heavily affected are children under the age of 3 with close to 6% being affected by a food allergy. Additionally, about 300,000 Canadian children under the age of 18 have a food allergy with the most common one being an allergy to peanuts which affect about 1 in 50 children.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), is the government body responsible for overseeing the proper labelling of allergens in Canada. They require food manufacturers, like Fine Choice Foods, to follow strict guidelines when it comes to ensuring consumers know what kinds of allergens are in the product. Find more details on what to look for on labels at the CFIA website.
Fine Choice Foods is a federally inspected plant which means that there is an on-site inspector that ensures that all food safety practices, including those related to allergens, are maintained daily. Furthermore, we operate with a HAACP program to ensure product safety. As of 2012, we also decided to undertake in achieving our status as a Safe Food Quality (SQF) Level 2 manufacturer which furthers our commitment to manufacturing under the highest of standards. In 2013, after a year of preparation, we were granted our SQF Level 2 status.
Allergens at Fine Choice Foods
Here at Fine Choice Foods we are proud to be a nut free (including both peanuts and tree nuts) and egg free plant. We made this a conscious decision so that our customers can feel comfortable eating our products.
The nature of our food products means that we do rely quite heavily on wheat, soy and sesame as they are commonly found in Asian foods. We do also on occasion process items with shellfish and dairy, but not frequently.
Preventing Cross Contamination
We understand that our customers need to feel safe when enjoying our products and as a result, preventing cross contamination is very important to us. Because we do occasionally process some allergens in our plant we take great care to ensure that there is no cross contamination. Following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), from proper storage to our work flow, we have a number of processes to ensure that there is no risk of cross contamination.
Our allergens are stored separately from other ingredients in the storage area and not on top of other ingredients. Furthermore, all allergens are clearly labelled with a bright yellow sticker.
Staff that work with allergens are required to wash their hands, change their gloves and change their work coats before handing other products.
To prevent contamination on the production line, products containing allergens are scheduled to run as the last item of the day or there is a whole day dedicated to the item. At the end of the day, the entire production line is completely cleaned and sanitized. This includes disassembling, cleaning and sanitizing all of the utensils, equipment and the general area. Our Quality Assurance team then verifies the effectiveness of the cleaning with a squab test which looks for allergen protein. Production on the line does not continue until sanitation requirements have been met using the test.