Preventing the transfer of allergens from one food to another via food-contact surfaces in retail food environments is an important aspect of retail food safety. Existing recommendations for wiping and cleaning food-contact surfaces is mainly focused on preventing microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses from contaminating foods. The effectiveness of these wiping and cleaning recommendations for preventing the transfer of food allergens in retail and food service establishments remains unclear. This project investigated: 1) allergen removal from surfaces by wiping with paper wipes, terry cloths and alcohol/quaternary ammonium chloride (quat) sanitizing wipes; 2) cleaning of allergen-contaminated surfaces using a wash-rinse-sanitize-air dry procedure; and 3) allergen transfer from contaminated wipes to multiple surfaces. Food-contact surfaces (stainless steel, textured plastic and maple wood) were contaminated with peanut-, milk- and egg-containing foods, and subjected to various wiping and cleaning procedures. For transfer experiments, dry paper wipes or wet cloths contaminated with allergenic foods were wiped on four surfaces of the same composition. Allergen-specific lateral flow devices were used to detect the presence of allergen residues on wiped or cleaned surfaces. While dry wipes and cloths were not effective for removing allergenic foods, terry cloths pre-soaked in water or sanitizer solution, use of multiple quat wipes, and the wash-rinse-sanitize-air dry procedure were effective in allergen removal from surfaces. Allergens present on dry wipes were transferred to wiped surfaces. In contrast, minimal or no allergen transfer to surfaces was found when allergen-contaminated terry cloths were submerged in sanitizer solution prior to wiping surfaces. The full cleaning method (wash-rinse-sanitize-air dry) and soaking the terry cloth in sanitizer solution prior to wiping were effective at allergen removal and minimizing allergen transfer.
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