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Cross contamination

Information about E. coli and allergens, and how to reduce the risk of cross contamination

E. coli

Finding out about E. coli is important because:

  • outbreaks of E. coli can easily happen due to cross contamination and poor practices
  • you need to know how you can reduce the risk of an outbreak

Cross contamination

You may need to learn more about:

  • separation of work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready to eat foods
  • why you need to have separate equipment (known as complex equipment), for example, vacuum packers, slicers, and mincers
  • the importance of hand washing, and why antibacterial hand gels shouldn't be relied upon
  • disinfectants and sanitisers - and why you need them

Allergens

Finding out about allergens is important because:

  • whether your food is pre-packed or open, you need to know what is in the food you're producing - it's the law
  • food allergens can be life threatening
  • allergens don't disappear with cooking, so it's important you introduce controls so cross contamination doesn't happen

What are the allergens?

The following are known allergens:

  • cereals containing 'gluten' (including wheat, rye, barley)
  • crustaceans (for example prawns, crabs, lobster and crayfish)
  • molluscs (clams, scallops, squid, mussels, oysters and snails)
  • fish
  • peanuts (these are not a member of the nut family)
  • soybeans
  • milk
  • eggs
  • nuts (almond, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, pistachio, cashew, macadamia and queensland nut)
  • celery and celeriac
  • mustard
  • sesame
  • lupin
  • sulphur dioxide or sulphites (often found in dried fruit and wine and where more than 10mg/kg is in the finished product)

Reducing the risk

Consider how you will reduce the risk of cross contamination in your kitchen. For example:  

  • can you store ingredients separately?
  • do you have space for a separate work area?
  • introduce separate cleaning procedures and equipment
  • do you have separate equipment, for example, colour coded tongs, boards and storage tubs
  • train your staff, they need to be able to inform customers of which allergens are in the food
  • display a sign, or add a line to your menu for customers to ask about allergens
  • remember to update your records when you change your menu
  • consider using standard recipes for dishes on your menu 
  • remember, if you deliver foods, separate those containing allergens from the other meals

Identifying allergens

You don't have to give away your secret recipes by telling people your recipe. But you must be able to identify what foods contain allergens.

You may want to complete the allergen matrix,and add this to your documented food safety system. Select an item from your menu and work your way across the matrix, ticking which allergens apply. 

You can also use recipe cards. You can find our allergen matrix and recipe cards at the bottom of this page.

For more information visit the Food Standard Agency website, or refer to our factsheets below.