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Four sources of food allergen cross-contact from throughout the food chain

13 July 2023 | Helen Arrowsmith, Regulatory Affairs Manager and Allergen Specialist, and Christopher James, Safety and Quality Specialist - Allergens

Food allergen cross-contact can occur at every stage of the food chain. Since food allergens cannot be removed or processed out from products once they are present, effective food allergen management is essential for ensuring the safety of food for consumers with food hypersensitivity.

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This blog outlines four examples from key stages of the food chain where food allergen cross-contact can occur. If you would like to discuss these, or any other risks and how to manage them, get in touch.

1. Agricultural cross-contact

Food allergen contamination can be introduced even at this early stage of the food chain. Remnants of crops can persist in the field and contaminate other produce grown during crop rotation, for example.

2. Transport

Once a food product leaves the farm, it may be subject to further cross-contact from other goods that are transported alongside it. Care and consideration must be given to what products are being transported and how their differing food allergen profiles could lead to contamination. Legislation in the EU requires that equipment, conveyances and/or containers are cleaned after being used to transport allergenic foodstuffs and must be checked for the absence of any visible debris to mitigate the risk of food allergen cross-contact.

Biscuits having red jelly jam piped on food production line

3. Processing

Within a manufacturing setting, there are many potential vectors of food allergen cross-contact, such as personnel, environment, equipment and utensils, as well as spillages of allergenic material.

Rework (food that is removed from processing to add back at a later stage) must be handled with caution to ensure cross-contact of other products does not occur due to the addition of rework with a different food allergen profile.

4. Fraudulent and malicious contamination of raw materials

Even if you have done everything right within your processing facility, you need to consider whether others earlier in the food chain have too – with food fraud being one of the most extreme examples of an issue that could pose a significant food safety risk. Adulteration of raw materials may be used in fraudulent attempts to boost profits through lower costs or increased bulk. Many adulterating agents could be used, including those that are allergenic, putting consumers with food allergies at risk.

We can help you to ensure food safety

Food allergen cross-contact can occur at every stage of the food chain, from ‘farm to fork’. Food business operators must employ food allergen management systems to mitigate or remove potential sources of food allergen cross-contact and minimise risks for those with food allergies, the control measures for which should be validated, verified, monitored and documented.

If you need any information or support, get in touch. We provide a range of services to support your food allergen management needs, including; food allergen training courses, testing, and practical support with cleaning validation, hygienic design, food safety management systems, labelling and legislation.

About Helen Arrowsmith

After her PhD, Helen joined Campden BRI in 2004 when she spent a year as Technical Support Officer in the Food Composition Section. The next nine years were spent in the Biochemistry Section, where Helen managed the provision of technical contract services in the area of food allergen detection, provided interpretation of testing results, consultancy, information and advice on food allergen testing.

In 2014, Helen moved to our Regulatory team where she has gained comprehensive understanding and experience of food law, not just relating to food allergens.

Helen now uses her knowledge and expertise to provide advice on all aspects of UK and harmonised EU legislation, including relating to food allergens. Helen presents on scheduled and tailored training courses on food law and food allergens, and oversees the production of our Food Law Alert.

Helen has managed various research projects; in 2023 she supervised and contributed to a Review of the literature and guidance on food allergen cleaning for the Food Standards Agency . Helen has also co-authored two guidance documents for the food industry on ‘Validation of cleaning to remove food allergens’ (Campden BRI Guideline 59) and ‘Food allergens: practical risk analysis, testing and action levels’ (Campden BRI Guideline 71).

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About Christopher James

Chris joined the Global Safety and Quality team at Campden BRI in August 2019 after studying Nutrition at Coventry University graduating with a BSc (Hons). He is a Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) and a Member of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (MIFST). Chris has undertaken multiple placements and an internship in various public health settings applying his knowledge of nutrition, food science and dietary conditions (including food hypersensitivity).

He brings this knowledge to his current role of Safety and Quality Specialist - Allergens working in collaboration with other specialists to achieve a holistic approach to food safety management. Chris provides training and consultancy in all areas of food safety management including allergen management, TACCP (food defence), VACCP (food fraud) and HACCP.

During his time at Campden BRI, Chris has contributed to writing guidance, articles, reports and research on current industry topics. He most recently collaborated with BRCGS in the development of guidance on Effective Allergen Management.

Chris is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Nottingham with the subject ‘Current and emergent allergens in food production systems.’

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How can we help you?

If you’d like support with food allergen management, contact our expert team to find out how we can help.

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Managing Food Allergens eBook

Download our FREE Managing Food Allergens eBook today! Secure food safety, control and confidence through effective allergen management.

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