How to prevent cross-contamination of allergens in food processing
Bacteria cross-contamination is a broad well-discussed topic but equally important is preventing the cross-contamination of allergens in food processes. For some, certain allergens can be life threatening so it is essential to minimise the risk of them getting to the food as much as possible, and always adding suitable warning labels to packaging if there is a chance of an allergen presence.
In this article, we will be covering how food manufacturers can prevent allergen contamination in their products and ensure that a high standard is maintained to protect consumers. An experienced food factory consultant can be extremely beneficial in helping businesses manage the risk of food allergens.
Unlike bacteria, you cannot just use disinfectants in your cleaning methods to get rid of allergens. They’re not living and so can’t be killed by this type of product, no matter how strong it is. In order to identify the right cleaning approach that will effectively tackle the allergens in your processes, multiple tests can be required.
Verification and DNA testing are two approaches that can be taken when detecting allergens. The former tends to be used more often and is typically more accurate through its use of lateral flow tests. DNA tests on the other hand can’t tell the difference between two allergens that have come from the same place, like chicken meat and eggs for example, meaning they aren’t beneficial in some applications.
In terms of the cleaning process itself there are a number of products on the market that can eliminate allergens through combining specific chemicals and that are based on enzymes. We’ll talk more about chemicals in more detail later on in this list.
Even though special cleaning products will probably be required to help avoid cross-contamination of allergens, that isn’t the only thing you can do to prevent the spread. Following the process practices below will also help you to minimise allergens accessing other food products as much as possible. Keep in mind they are mostly things you should do in your manufacturing anyway, but it always helps to have a refresh.
- Thoroughly clean equipment before each use, particularly if they had previously been used with foods containing allergens.
- Store raw ingredients and finished products separately in sealed and correctly labelled containers.
- Always your hands if you have been in contact with products containing allergens.
- Ensure ingredients that have allergens are kept separate from other ingredients that don’t.
Knowing your materials
In any business that handles food products, it’s essential that you know exactly what raw materials are on-site. If you have a detailed knowledge of the food items involved in your manufacturing processes, you can create an accurate and effective plan to manage any allergens present. Create a detailed list of all the food products used in your manufacturing process and the ingredients within each one. With this, you will then be able to find which materials contain different types of allergens. You can double-check this with the testing options noted above.
Be mindful of maintenance lubricants
As a food product developer, it can be easy to forget that there might be certain maintenance chemicals you use that have hidden allergens. Be sure to assess any chemicals used on your premises for potential allergens and if you have contractors coming in, keep in mind that they might bring in different chemicals that you might not have the opportunity to assess in detail. Therefore, in those circumstances, it might be best to ask that they only use certain types of chemicals in line with ones you have reviewed and know are safe from allergens and won’t risk contamination in your production line.
If you need help identifying and preventing the cross-contamination of allergens in your food processes, our food engineering services at FESS can help. Our consultants have extensive knowledge and many years of experience in helping food manufacturers ensure their processes are as health and safety compliant, efficient, and cost-effective as possible. Contact us today to discuss your food and drink factory process needs or get started with us by requesting a free site survey through our website.