Allergen Cross Contact is a Foreseeable Risk
Provision of safe food is a fundamental requirement for all food business operators. Consumers with food allergies other hypersensitivities are entitled to expect information about allergenic ingredients in food and drink is accurate and verifiable. This applies to presence of allergens as an intentional ingredient or inadvertently due to allergen cross contact. The foreseeable risk of unintentional allergens in products must be communicated to consumers to help them make safe choices in what they eat and drink.
What is Allergen Cross Contact?
Codex guidance on allergen management uses the term allergen cross contact to define “an incident in which “an allergenic food, or ingredient, is unintentionally incorporated into another food that is not intended to contain that allergenic food”1. Allergen cross contact can happen during processing, preparing and handling food and drink products1. Food safety and food allergy awareness training must cover how these potential hazards could incur and what control measures will prevent or minimise them.
Product Information and Consumer Awareness
Information about the risk of allergen cross contact can help people with food allergies make safe choices about food and drink they consume. Food businesses operators and personnel must clearly communicate to the consumer the risk of allergen cross contact where a product cannot be guaranteed to contain an unintentional allergenic ingredient. This information could be communicated verbally, in a written statement on a menu and/or allergen alert signage in self-serve areas for unpacked products1.
Food businesses can voluntarily inform consumers about the risk of trace amounts of an unintentional food allergen in prepacked products with precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) following a thorough risk assessment. Labelling on packaging can include phrases such as may contain or not suitable for. People with a food allergy are advised not to eat food with this labelling. There is also a requirement for PAL information on prepacked compound ingredients used in a pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) product to be communicated to the consumer with additional precautionary labelling2.
Provision of precautionary information about the risk of allergen cross-contact is not an acceptable reason if a food business operator fails to provide suitable and sufficient control measures to prevent or minimise hazards.
Allergen Management Guidance
Codex published in 2020 a Code of Practice on Food Allergen Management for Food Business Operators to support the principles of food hygiene. The guidance is suitable for food manufacturers, caterers and retailers and covers effective control measures to prevent or minimise the risk of allergen cross contact at all stages with the food chain from farm to fork.
What you like to know more?
We offer an accredited range of food allergen training for your team. Food allergy training courses open to the public run throughout the year or choose an in-house course at a date convenient for your team. Gain a certificate in food allergens certificate by enrolling onto one of our courses below: