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'Heightened awareness' about pathogens, allergens in US dairy: Neogen

By Mark Astley+

05-Dec-2013

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has created a “heightened level of awareness” about allergens and pathogens within the dairy industry, food safety specialist Neogen has claimed.

Speaking with DairyReporter.com at the International Dairy Show in Chicago last month, Megan Zallman, market development manager for dairy and beverages at Neogen, said that the looming implementation of the FSMA has forced dairy processors in the States to take a closer look at pathogen and allergen testing.

“There is definitely a lot more interest at this point in allergen testing,” said Zallman. “We’re getting a lot of questions about allergens, as well as pathogens.”

“There seems to be a heightened level of awareness from the dairy industry on those two platforms.”

Recalls and outbreaks

President Barack Obama signed the FSMA into law on 4 January 2011. The legislation, which provides the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with increased enforcement authority, was designed to ensure the safety of the country’s food supply by “shifting focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.”

A window for public comment on the FSMA Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food closed last month. The FDA will now finalise the legislation before issuing it.

With time ticking on, US dairy processors are “just trying to prepare as much as possible," Zallman said.

But the FSMA can't take all the glory, Zallman said. Consumer concern about food safety has also played a part.

“There are two facets of it," said Zallman.

“The Food Safety Modernization Act, and all the regulations that come with it, will be coming down at some point. But a lot of this increased awareness is consumer-driven. They are concerned because we are seeing many more recalls and outbreaks."

“...there is a heightened level of consumer awareness - they’re really demanding that their food be safe. And the government has backed that. Both of those have had a major impact on demand.”

Allergen control plan

The growing popularity of Greek yogurt and other less traditional dairy products in the US has also forced processors to refresh their testing practices, Zallmann added.

"Anytime there are new product developments, processors run into new concerns and new issues."

"Greek yogurt is huge, and there are inclusion. You see manufacturers adding granola and adding fruit for example. So you need to make sure that you have a good allergen control plan in place in order to manage those ingredients in your process," Zallman said.

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