With the ever increasing awareness and importance of producing foods that are clearly labelled if a product contains known allergens, either as a deliberate ingredient or a possible contaminant, allergen risk assessments and management must be put in place.
These systems will avoid the unintentional presence of allergens in products, with an evaluation of the likelihood of allergen cross-contamination throughout the production process from raw materials to end product.
Existing Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) controls will assist with allergen management, avoiding cross contamination via segregation, cleaning and the use of separate utensils amongst others, so in many ways allergen management is an extension of programmes that are already in place.
It is important to remember that cleaning practices which may meet the correct microbiological hygiene standards may not be sufficient to remove allergens from surfaces and equipment; unlike microbial contamination, allergens are generally unaffected by heat and unaffected by disinfectants. Validating a cleaning process will ensure their removal and that no cross contamination risk exists.
Whilst ATP or protein tests could be used, specific allergen testing is widely recognised as offering the best way to make sure the cleaning programmes in place are successful.