3 Allergen Food safety strategies in hospitality and catering

Effective allergen food safety control can be a life or death situation for a person with a severe food allergy, so as a food manufacturer or caterer it is essential that you do everything in your power to help susceptible individuals to make informed choices about what they consume. Improve your food production safety with our top tips.

Allergen food safety

In the UK there are on average 10 fatalities associated with undeclared allergens every year. Having good record keeping practices and allergen controls may help to prevent fatal anaphylactic shock in a vulnerable person, and also helps you to prove that you have done all you can to protect customers in the event that something does go wrong.

Allergen food safety controls are generally simple and inexpensive to implement but have the potential for a life altering impact. Make sure that you have your controls in place with our 1, 2, 3 principle. #food-hygiene-courses

Level 2 Food Hygiene

1. Never Guess

In a hospitality or catering environment you may come into direct contact with customers who need clarification or reassurance about the allergens contained in a product. There are 14 common allergens that must legally be labelled, but there are over 170 foods known to cause allergic reactions so you may be asked about other ingredients too.

It is vital that you don’t make assumptions about the ingredients in a product. Always check ingredient labelling, consult the chef, and let customers know if you aren’t sure so that they can make their own informed decision about what to eat. For pre-prepared food or menu items you should have an allergen control document which lists all the ingredients in a particular food item. #allergen-food-safety See our Level 2 Food Hygiene course

Food Hygiene chopping boards

2. Effective Allergen Segregation

Where possible, allergens should be stored and processed separately. This is called segregation. You may designate a particular area of the kitchen or a production line to products with particularly common and serious allergens such as nuts. There may be different coloured equipment for working with particular allergens and these should be clearly labelled to avoid unintentional misuse and improve allergen food safety.

If you are working in a larger manufacturing environment, good practice would be sequence production to help with allergen control where possible. This would mean that allergens are not handled until the latest possible stage to minimise the risk of cross-contamination. #level-2-food-hygiene

hand washing, food safety, training

3. Personnel and Hygiene

All staff should have appropriate training for the environment in which they work and this includes how to manage allergens. Staff need to be trained in minimising opportunities for cross-contamination, especially where this contamination might result in undeclared allergens ending up in a product.

Effective hand-washing and cleaning after allergens have been handled should be a routine part of kitchen or manufacturing operations. Staff should be trained in allergen food safety which must include training on washing their hands whenever they have been handling an allergen from the 14 with enhanced labelling requirements. Any work surfaces which may later be used for non-allergen containing products should be cleaned thoroughly.

There may also be a need for special corrective actions in some instances. These may include special cleaning arrangements after a spill of an allergenic material and disposal of contaminated products. Allergen food safety testing may be required after a change to production processes to check for any unintentional cross-contamination.

These allergen food safety controls will form a part of your business Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) planning and contribute to safe food production. To learn more about these and other controls for preparing food either as a manufacturer or as a caterer, consider working through iQualifi’s Level 2 courses in Food Safety and Hygiene or Food Manufacturing Safety. Or if you are interested in how effective allergen controls contribute to achieving or maintaining a 5 star food hygiene rating, see our blog post on flawless environmental health inspections for catering premises.

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