Remember the 4 Cs to prevent cross-contamination:


2. CHECK – CHECK labels and our problem foods list every time

3. CONTAIN – CONTAIN food allergens, fish and meat

4. COMMUNICATION – COMMUNICATE clearly to the whole team about how important standards of hygiene and cleanliness are


Keep food allergens, meat and fish away from other products – always CONTAIN them

CHECK for risks of airborne cross-contamination, e.g. ground nuts, sesame/mustard seeds, mustard/milk powder

ALWAYS keep clear ingredient lists and update these regularly – to reduce cross-contamination and also for customers to see

Top tips:

CONTAIN allergens, meat or fish BELOW other products

CONTAIN allergens, meat or fish in clearly-marked airtight containers



WASH your hands after touching food allergens, meat or fish and before preparing anything

CLEAN anything that has come into contact with food allergens, meat or fish:

  • Cutlery, e.g. teaspoons for drinks/knives after cutting bread
  • Utensils, e.g. spatula after cooking an omelette/ice-cream scoop
  • Pans/wok, e.g. after cooking pasta
  • Oven tray, e.g. after cooking a pizza
  • Crockery
  • Chopping boards (hardest things to CLEAN), e.g. after cutting bread, fish or meat

Ensure CLEANING is done properly with a clear regime, close monitoring and record keeping

Use dishwashers (commercial or domestic) if possible as they are the most effective way to remove allergens

ALWAYS use hot water when hand-washing, CHECK you are using the correct type and amount of detergent/CLEANING chemical – different allergens react differently, e.g. celery lifts easily, walnut/hazelnut need a detergent that can lift the protein. Use force/scrape where required

ALWAYS CLEAN surfaces with hot water & detergent, rinse and dry – use a CLEAN cloth

ALWAYS rinse in CLEAN water

Top tips:

ALWAYS dismantle anything that is hard to CLEAN and manually CLEAN it, especially if used for seeds, powders and pastes

ALWAYS use a CLEAN knife/spoon for any sauces/spreads/condiments, e.g. butter, mayonnaise, jam

ALWAYS remember to CLEAN ovens/grills that have been in contact with food allergens, meat or fish

Consider using new or separate equipment (that is clearly marked) for anyone with a severe allergy

Taking Orders

ALWAYS CHECK recipes/menus/ingredients with the chef


  • Get a full picture of the customer’s dietary requirement
  • This information should be COMMUNICATED clearly to the chef for him/her to CHECK
  • Any genuine cross-contamination risks/queries should be COMMUNICATED clearly to the customer so they can make an informed choice

Top tips:

Put a disclaimer on your menu highlighting cross-contamination risks

Mark meals in some way throughout the process, e.g. on the order

Food Preparation

ALWAYS CHECK the label closely. NEVER risk serving a food you aren’t sure about

CHECK that nothing has changed when preparing the food, e.g. kitchen layout, recipes, staff

Consider changing into CLEAN whites/clothes for preparing free-from meals – especially for a severe allergy

CHECK if there is a risk of cross-contamination from food allergens, meat or fish, e.g. are nuts in the same kitchen? Are you using flour? Is there milk powder in the kitchen?

CONTAIN allergens

  • NEVER reuse equipment, oil or water for free-from meals
  • NEVER use the same ice-cream scoop for all ice-creams
  • NEVER use the same toaster for free-from products, unless you have toaster bags, e.g. do
    not toast gluten-free bread in the same toaster as normal bread

Details of the dietary requirements should be COMMUNICATED to EVERYONE involved in preparing the meal. NEVER underestimate the risk of poor COMMUNICATION

ALWAYS open airborne allergens carefully and away from free-from items, CONTAINING the risk them), e.g. flour/ground nuts/sesame seeds/mustard powder/milk powder

ALWAYS CHECK our problem foods lists

ALWAYS CHECK for hidden ingredients, e.g. sesame in houmous, gluten in oyster sauce, milk in chorizo (link to ‘Getting your head around food labels’)

NEVER use a food that you have dropped onto a surface that you cannot be certain is CLEAN

Top tips:

ALWAYS CHECK your suppliers take preventing cross-contamination seriously

CHECK with the customer if there are any ingredients you are unsure of. It is not a problem to show the customer the label – they will welcome it!

Assign a separate area for preparing free-from, vegan or vegetarian options

Use separate, clearly-marked/colour-coded kitchen equipment, e.g. blue chopping board for fish, gluten-free chopping boards/pan

Try to prepare free-from meals before other meals, and consider preparing them at the start of the day when everything is CLEAN

Try and use a free-from or vegan alternative in a recipe all the time, e.g. corn flour in a sauce (instead of wheat flour), oil to fry (instead of butter), gluten-free & vegan stock cubes in a soup


NEVER use the same grill/baking tray unless properly CLEANED, e.g. veggie burger on the same grill as chicken or gluten-free pizza on the same tray as one that contains wheat

NEVER reuse boiled water, e.g. to cook pasta and gluten-free pasta

NEVER reuse a pan/wok or cook different meals in the same pan, e.g. do not cook sausages that contain gluten in the same pan as bacon

NEVER reuse oil to cook free-from, vegetarian or vegan options without CHECKING with the customer first, e.g. do not cook gluten-free chips in the same oil as battered/bread-crumbed foods

Top tips:

Have a separate fryer for your chips – this will please a lot of customers as there will be no risk of cross-contamination of fish, gluten, milk, meat or soya

Offer a free-from alternative to replace chips/potatoes that is simple to make in your kitchen, e.g. sautéed potatoes/potato salad

Use toaster bags to toast free-from bread in your normal toaster


ALWAYS mark free-from meals clearly so it is COMMUNICATED to all

ALWAYS ensure that if a meal is plated up it is out of the way/covered up to reduce the risk of cross-contamination

ALWAYS have someone serving at a buffet where possible to reduce cross-contamination or, alternatively, advise people with dietary requirements not to use the buffet

NEVER serve food allergens, meat or fish on the same plate as free-from, vegetarian or vegan foods, e.g. never put ham sandwiches on the same plate as the cheese ones that are for a vegetarian or never serve gluten-free cakes on the same cake tray as others

Top tips:

Try and sit people with severe allergies the furthest away from the kitchen – especially people allergic to crustaceans

Consider marking chairs by tying ribbons around them or writing on the person’s place mat to show who has dietary requirements in a subtle way


Allergy UK
Anaphylaxis Campaign
Coeliac UK
Food Standards Agency

Please note this information has been produced using only reliable and evidence-based (where possible) sources. Information is however not exhaustive and may change frequently so please always check the links given in case information has changed.

Version 1 Produced October 2014 Review date August 2016

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