The VITAL® (Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling) system is an essential standardised allergen risk assessment tool for food producers. VITAL® allows food producers to assess the impact of allergen cross contact and provide appropriate precautionary allergen labelling on their products.
Food allergens may be present in a food due to intentional inclusion as part of a recipe, allergens but may also be present due to unintentional cross-contact. This can occur at any point in the supply chain due to the type of ingredients used or through the use of shared equipment and processes during manufacture.
Even under conditions of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) cross-contact may be difficult to eliminate entirely, leading manufacturers to use precautionary advisory statements to advise allergic consumers.
VITAL® was developed to make a single simple standardised precautionary statement available to assist food producers in presenting allergen advice consistently for allergic consumers.
VITAL® not only assists food producers in assessing the potential impact of allergen cross contact in each of their products but also specifies a particular precautionary allergen statement to be used according to the level of cross contact identified.
VITAL® allows the assessment of likely sources of allergen cross contact from raw materials and the processing environment, plus an evaluation of the amount present and a review of the ability to reduce the allergenic material from all contributing sources.
VITAL® also provides for ongoing monitoring and verification of the risk assessment process to ensure any changes to the level of risk are acted upon without delay.
Reviewing the Science – Why it is Important
The Allergen Bureau recognised a need to form a scientific expert panel, known as the VITAL® Scientific Expert Panel (VSEP), to review the underpinning science around food allergen thresholds. The scientific review was a critical body of work to ensure that the action levels set protect the allergic consumer by enabling industry to make appropriate precautionary labelling decisions and providing clear and consistent consumer communication through the use (or not) of the “may be present” statement.
TheVITAL® Scientific Expert Panel consists of international scientists specialising in allergen management, food allergy and risk assessment.
The VSEP is a collaboration between the Allergen Bureau, Food Allergy Research & Resource Program (FARRP) of the University of Nebraska & the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).