Cross-contamination happens when traces of allergens get into products accidently during the transport, manufacturing, handling or storage of foods.
Precautionary allergen labelling can be added if you want to warn customers. This type of labelling is not specifically covered by the provisions set out in the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC) but is detailed in EU General Food Law and Hygiene Regulation No. 178/2002. This states that food must be safe and consumers have information they need to avoid specific illness caused by particular foods.
All staff involved in handling ingredients, equipment, utensils, packaging and final food products should be aware of the possibilities of cross-contamination with allergens.
Ideally you would have separate production facilities for specific products. If not, try scheduling the foods you are producing by preparing foods in order of least allergenic to most allergenic to manage cross contamination.
Raw allergens should be stored away from other ingredients. Keep them in sealed plastic bins that are clearly marked or colour-coded.
Very small amounts of some allergens can cause severe allergic reactions in sensitive people. It is so important to clean thoroughly in a way that reduces the risk of cross-contamination.
Some methods of cleaning may not be adequate for removing some allergens. Dismantling equipment and cleaning each individual part by hand is a good way to make sure that ‘hard-to-clean’ areas are free from allergen contamination. Develop and follow a suitable cleaning regimes.
Allergy related product withdrawals or recalls are often caused by incorrect packaging and/or labelling. Ensure that the correct labels are applied to products and any outer packaging.
Packaging should be removed and destroyed at the end of a production run. This includes any that may be within the wrapping machine.
Developing new products or changing existing products
If the newly developed or changed product contains one or more of the 14 allergens, it could lead to cross-contamination of other products produced in the same premises. In this case, you will need to assess the risk and decide whether precautionary allergen labelling is appropriate for both the new and existing products.
Businesses in the supply chain
The food business operator (FBO), whose name the food is marketed under, is responsible for making sure the correct information is provided to the consumer.
All manufacturers must declare if allergens are present in their products and label them accordingly. If all those involved in the food chain comply with regulation, people can have more trust in the food they eat.
Multi-packs Where products are sold in multi-packs, allergens must be displayed on the outer packaging.
If food manufacturers provide allergen information on the packaging of individual products then it has to be consistent with the outer packaging.
Article 15 of EU FIC explains that the language on the labelling should be easily understood by the people of the country where the food is marketed.
For food products sold in the UK it is essential that the information is in English.
It is the responsibility of the food companies who manufacture pre-packed foods to provide mandatory allergen information.
Pre-packed foods sold via vending machines do not need to make any allergen information available before the purchase is made.
Non-prepacked vended food or drinks such as soups or hot chocolate will need to provide allergen information upfront.