Revised E.coli O157 control of cross-contamination guidance published

Last updated:
9 July 2014
The FSA E.coli O157 control of cross-contamination guidance has been revised and updated to take into account the results from independent research into the effectiveness of disinfecting complex equipment, and the views of industry and local authority stakeholders. The aim of the guidance is to ensure that businesses manage the risk to consumer health from the presence of E.coli in food.

We first produced guidance for businesses into how to control the risks of cross-contamination in 2011. This was in response to the public inquiry into the 2005 E.coli O157 outbreak in South Wales.

Greater flexibility

The revised guidance provides greater flexibility for businesses on how they may manage food safety risks, subject to their assessment of the particular risks relating to their business and subsequent assessment by the relevant local authority.

The revised guidance clarifies that:

  • Businesses do not have to have separate areas for handling raw and ready-to-eat foods (RTE) where they can demonstrate that separation by time with effective cleaning and disinfection will manage the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Less complex equipment, such as temperature probes, mixers and weighing scales, may be used for both raw and RTE foods subject to the business being able to demonstrate that such equipment will be effectively cleaned and disinfected between uses.
  • More complex equipment such as vacuum packers, slicers and mincers, may also be effectively cleaned and disinfected between uses so long as such machines are completely dismantled to allow all surfaces to be thoroughly cleaned. In practice, however, it is unlikely to be practical for businesses to regularly change the use of vacuum packers as a competent engineer would need to undertake what is a complicated dismantling and reassembling process. However, cleaning to allow a more permanent change of use, for example to re-commission and buy and sell second-hand vacuum packers, may be feasible. In the case of slicers and mincers, dismantling, cleaning and disinfecting may be more straightforward but is unlikely to be feasible during normal business operations. Businesses wishing to use such machines for raw and RTE foods would need to fully assess the risks and to demonstrate to the relevant local authority that cleaning between uses will provide effective controls.

User friendly

We have also revised the layout of the guidance so that it now follows that commonly used in industry guides. This will make it easier for businesses to follow and distinguish between legal requirements, FSA guidance on compliance, and good practice.

Comments

The revised guidance can be found at the link below. Business and other stakeholders have a period of eight weeks to provide any further comments they would like to be considered.

You can provide your comments online.

The deadline for comments is Friday 29 August 2014.

More information