FMI plans to create an allergen guidance document in partnership with the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program at the University of Nebraska that will take learnings from the manufacturing industry and apply them to a retail setting as well as address the issues that are of most concern to members.

Allergen-related recalls may be part of the guidance document if FMI members indicate on a survey out now that they want to learn more on that topic.


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“So there’s a lot of room for improvement and a lot of opportunities that we can learn from other industries and apply that at the retail level. But we want to do things that are practical and applicable at retail,” said Thesmar.

Roger Hancock, president and CEO of Recall InfoLink, suggests three important areas for retailers to focus on when it comes to preventing allergen-related recalls of their own products.

“Well I guess to start with, make sure your labels are accurate. Then if they are, whenever you change suppliers review your labels, make sure they’re still accurate. And consider using kind of general guidance statements to make sure that you’re protecting your shoppers,” said Hancock, who previously served as Supervalu’s head of food safety.

Although the number of allergen-related recalls dropped somewhat in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to previous quarters, experts expect it to remain an issue for some time.

“With an increased awareness and public concern about food allergens, it’s not a problem we see tapering off in the near term,” said Pollack.

Read more: SN's dedicated Food Safety page

However, some think the awareness could be a positive thing for the food industry.

“They’re taking seriously the need to properly declare, to comply and to protect the public. And so I think it’s a good trend. I mean, it’s an unfortunate trend because recalls cost money and that kind of stuff. But I think that businesses are deciding to do the right thing for the right reasons and I think that’s positive however that happens,” said Hancock.

Those retailers and suppliers who get it right when it comes to allergens can inspire a loyal following with consumers.

“One of the key areas for consumers that have that allergen person in their household, every time they shop they have to read the entire ingredient statement to make sure that the product has not changed ingredients. But these individuals become very brand loyal on who they can trust. And so they will go back and purchase the same item over and over again,” said Prince.

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