Production scheduling should take into account the allergens in each of the foods produced. This involves scheduling products that contain no allergens first, followed by foods that contain allergens, and ensuring that the line is cleaned between foods that have different allergen profiles. Well thought out production schedules are a key technique for minimising allergen cross contact.

The first step is to understand the allergens in the recipe of each of the foods being produced. Investigate the allergen status of each raw material, identify each allergen that is intentionally included as part of a recipe, and any allergens that may be present due to cross contact. This information should already be available if raw material specifications have been assessed thoroughly, procured correctly, received and stored as described in other steps on this website.

Scheduling decisions can include the form of the allergen. For example, the allergen may be readily dispersible, particulate, or in a form that is exempt from mandatory declaration, such as soybean derivatives that are a tocopherol as described in the ANZ Food Standards Code the table to Schedule 9-3.

Create an allergen matrix that lists each product and its allergen status. Determine a production order that minimises cross contact from occurring. Consider scheduling long runs of product to decrease the number of product changeovers. It may be necessary to include some extra cleaning steps between some products.

This link provides an example of an Allergen Matrix and suggested schedule designed to minimise allergen cross contact.

Include blending, downgrade and rework within the allergen matrix. Clearly presenting this information is critical and is often complex within industries such as dairy.

Production sequences should be kept up to date and reviewed whenever a change occurs. Staff should understand the implications if a production schedule is changed. Ensure that any changes to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and guidelines are communicated to all persons involved.

Ingredient changes or substitutions can impact upon the allergen status of a recipe and therefore the production schedule. Include procedures to identify and manage changes to the production schedule if the allergen status of ingredients changes.

Ensure SOPs to manage allergen cross contact include instructions for any alterations to scheduling. This includes unanticipated changes made just prior to (or during) production. Consider implementing formal authorisation steps from a person who has a very good technical understanding of the impact of the change. Ensure all factors are considered such as the impact upon that particular line and the surrounding lines. Include instructions to assess and manage situations where a food contains Hang Up due to contact with the previous food.

Product development trials may increase the risk of the introduction of an allergen already on site into a new product or the introduction of an entirely new allergen into the facility. Product trial scheduling needs to ensure that allergens are identified, and that subsequent product may require verification that cross contact has not occurred.

Revise and update practices to align with the Allergen Management Program. It may be useful to stipulate the allergen status on daily schedule, so rationale is clear in case of break downs or, production teams needing to deviate from schedule unexpectedly. Ensure processes that require approval and sign off by quality teams prior to changes are in place.

A combination of scheduling and cleaning can be an effective method for minimising allergen cross contact. Note that an allergen matrix and a cleaning matrix are very similar and the two can be combined.