The UK Foods Standards Agency (FSA) have conducted a study to review international literature and guidance documents about cleaning methods to remove food allergens from surfaces to support their work on Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL).
Evidence gathered from previous food industry consultations shows that there is uncertainty around the effectiveness of allergen cleaning, and this is a barrier to effective use of PAL. The FSA sought to better understand the efficacy of existing cleaning procedures and use this to inform guidance on best practice.
The review identified many factors that affected cleaning:
- Foodstuff: soil type, physical form, and food matrix – e.g., generally sticky paste residues are more difficult to remove than dry residues.
- Surface: material and its properties – e.g., stainless steel is generally the easiest surface to clean, whilst wood and cloth are the most difficult.
- Equipment accessibility – inaccessible equipment may need to be dismantled or cleaned using techniques such as ‘push-through’ which uses an inert material, physical object or foodstuff that does not contain any allergenic proteins to clean a line.
- Cleaning parameters: time, mechanical action, chemical properties (of detergents or cleaning chemicals applied) and temperature.
It was noted there were some gaps on the efficacy of cleaning to remove food allergens. Further research is therefore needed to better understand the efficacy of existing cleaning procedures, which can then be used to inform guidance on best practice in food businesses.
Download the report as a pdf from the FSA website here.