Allergens in food production areas
Controlling allergens in food production areas can be a challenging prospect. The risk of cross contamination must be considered, as well as the allergens deliberately incorporated into the product. In a busy area, not only must the food be controlled, but also the movement of staff and equipment, as potential vectors. Often this is accomplished by colour coding work wear, and equipment to specific allergens. this can be complicated by multiple allergens being present in a product.
Food allergens are becoming an increasingly reported issue with a recent report from FSA highlighting that the most common foods that people reported having an adverse reaction to were cows’ milk and cows’ milk products (22%), cereals containing gluten (13%) and molluscs e.g. mussels, oysters (11%).
Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011
The regulation on the provision of food information to consumers brings together rules on general food, allergen and nutrition labelling into one piece of legislation. Most of the legislation is concerned with pre packed food, sold at a different site to that where it is prepared. This has been in place since December 2014. A recent addition to UK legislation came into effect in October 2021. This is a result of the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse in 2016. This legislation is designed to close the loophole which allows food which is prepacked and prepared on the same site as it is prepared which did not need full labelling.
% of allergic reactions due to molluscs
A prosecution brought in 2016 against Mohammed Zaman, the owner of several restaurants resulted in a sentence of 6 years after a man died from anaphylactic shock. The consumer had a nut allergy and had purchased a nut free curry. The owner had substituted an almond powder for a cheaper substitute. More recently, in 2018, an inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse in 2016 was widely covered in the media and the coroner was outspoken about the actions that Pret a Manger had not taken. However, Pret had adhered to the regulations regarding allergens, as the food is prepared on site. There are questions over whether Pret a Manger should have implemented more stringent information given the size of the business. As a result of this, the UK government have published “Natasha’s Law”.
The declarable allergens are:
– Peanuts (also called groundnuts or monkey nuts)
– Nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan, Brazil, pistachio)
– Crustaceans (for example, crab, lobster, langoustine, prawn, shrimp)
– Sesame seeds
– Celery (including celeriac)
– Molluscs (for example, squid, octopus, mussels, cockles, periwinkles, snail)
– Cereals containing gluten (for example, wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt and kamut)
– Added sulphur dioxide and sulphites
Although consumers may suffer allergic reactions to other foods, it is those in the list which are required by law to be managed.
It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that the allergens on the list are highlighted on labels. Any information given must be accurate.
For specific queries, contact Alimenti, or speak to your local authority.
Avoid Cross Contamination
- Ensure that all staff wash their hands regularly, and always after product changes.
- Food containing allergens should be stored in dedicated containers solely used for this purpose. The containers should be sealable and easily identifiable and stored away from other food items.
- Clean and sanitise all food contact surfaces, food containers and utensils before and after use, preferably with disposable cloths.
- Avoid spills and splattering while preparing food.
- Where possible prepare food containing allergens in separate areas, or after foods not containing allergens.