When shared equipment, containers, or utensils are used for an allergen and a non-allergen or non-like allergen product, cleaning of all the equipment, containers and utensils must take place. The cleaning must be effective in removing all product residues. This may be a different type of cleaning than what is done for quality or microbial reasons. For example, products such as nuts tend to leave an oily residue behind and require wet cleaning. Cloth belts often require laundering between non-compatible allergens.
The use of air hoses for allergen cleaning should be discouraged. Compressed air does not clean equipment, it simply relocates residue to a more accessible area. In addition, the compressed air hoses will make the allergen airborne so that it may contaminate adjacent surfaces or re-settle on the equipment after being cleaned.
When an allergen changeover cleaning is required, it is best to identify this on the schedule as a reminder. It is also very useful to develop an Allergen Changeover Checklist.
In the best cases, the checklist is signed by the person who performs each cleaning task and by a second person who performs a visual inspection of the equipment to ensure that no visible residue has been left behind. Visual inspections are one way of validating effective cleaning. However, with allergens, allergen residual testing is advised as further validation because of the low levels of allergens that may cause an allergic reaction.
Allergen testing can take many forms. Swabbing cleaned equipment for either general protein residual or specific allergenic proteins is a common type of test performed for allergen cleaning validation. Another test consists of sampling product produced immediately following an allergen clean up for contamination by the previously run allergen.