An allergen-free factory: less is more
One of the key objectives of 21st century companies is that the products or services they offer are valued by their customers. Value increases by incorporating elements that add up, but also by eliminating those that subtract. Currently, consumers are very aware of the importance of proper labelling of allergens in food, as the diagnoses of food allergies are increasing, and the media make very visible food alerts caused by the presence of undeclared allergens. Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 on food information lists in its annex II the 14 substances or products that cause allergies or intolerances and must be mandatorily stated.
Long before this regulation appeared, and long before the current trend of “free” products, in Sant Dalmai we took the initiative to eliminate allergens from our cooked products, understanding that quality products could be produced without even traces of them.
The start: Gluten Free
In 2007 we were one of the first companies to obtain the FACE (Federation of Celiac Associations in Spain) certification for gluten-free products, which we have renewed all these years. We registered with licence number 14! Our current FACE certificate is valid throughout 2018, and we already have a licence to use the “Crossed Grain Trademark” European logo, since from 2020 the European Licence System (ELS) regulated by AOECS (Association Of European Coeliac Societies) will be the only certification recognized in the EU. Being pioneers in serving gluten-free products led us to wonder if it would be possible to make cooked meat products without other allergens. We decided to get to the bottom of the matter and we tackled the project as a challenge to take on in stages, in which the collaboration of our suppliers of raw materials was essential.
We designed an allergen management system that guaranteed no cross-contamination between allergenic components through two strategies: organization of production and implementation of validated intermediate cleanings. We have the advantage of creating all our recipes from pure ingredients, without previous mixing, and we set up a computer system to detect incompatibilities that indicated to the workers when they had to do intermediate cleanings.
Soya-free and dairy-free
We started the project “allergen free” looking at how to replace soya proteins and caseinates, two ingredients that are still commonly used in the meat industry today. We discovered that there were some alternatives on the market capable of replicating the function of soya and milk proteins, and although it was a challenge to integrate them, the change would allow us to simplify our product labelling. After soya and milk, we worked to eliminate the rest of allergens in our recipes.
In the next stage we focussed on flavourings. At that point, the collaboration of our suppliers was key, since they had to guarantee the absence of allergens in their products, which was not a usual requirement at the time. They quickly responded to our proposals and working together we managed to have flavourings completely free of allergens for the manufacture of our products.
In 2009 we launched a range of “minis” (cooked ham and turkey breast) free from gluten, dairy, eggs, soya and nuts. Their sensory characteristics, their presentation and their price point positioned them as products aimed at the general public but especially suitable for those who had allergies or intolerances.
The cooked meat products that Sant Dalmai SAU manufactures today for the European market are free of all allergens notifiable in the EU. We know that this characteristic is essential for the food industries and especially for companies that work with communities and have to ensure one hundred percent the reliability of their recipes.
Our meat preparations (burger meat, hamburger and sausages) are the only products in our meat range that contain sulfites, since the use of this additive is necessary to guarantee the safety of these foods throughout their shelf life. We are working to find a way to replace them but at the moment there is no solution that offers sufficient guarantee of this.
We will continue researching, we will continue testing and we are sure that we will succeed!