How to avoid cross-contamination with food allergies

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It is important to note that cross-contamination is a big issue for those who have food allergies. Remember that cross-contamination occurs once a food allergen contaminates a food that is free from any allergens.

Cross-contamination can also occur during food preparation, cooking, serving or storage. Take note that it can occur at home, at school, in restaurants or manufacturing facilities. In some individuals with food allergies, even a small amount of allergen can instigate an allergic reaction. Luckily, there are measures that can help protect food from cross-contamination as well as minimize the risk for an allergic reaction.

Packaged foods

Cross-contamination can also occur during food preparation, cooking, serving or storage.

Many manufacturers willingly reveal that a particular food product might have been contaminated through processing, yet they are not required to do so. These indications will provide a clue regarding the presence of some of the common food allergens. You can do this by checking the ingredients label.

There are packaged foods that do not include cross-contamination information or contains ambiguous statements. The ideal approach before consuming these products is to contact the customer service for clarification especially if the individual is prone to severe allergies.

At home

The simplest way to prevent cross-contamination as well as an allergic reaction is to avoid buying or bringing in food allergens inside the house. If a family member is at risk for anaphylaxis, any food allergens should not be present inside the house.

If there are allergens inside the house, they should be away from food preparation and serving areas. Make sure that you will designate food preparation areas and clean all food surfaces before and after preparation of food as soon as finished. Take note that the foods at risk for cross-contamination are those that are messy, have crumbs, difficult to clean, oil or other trace allergens on the surface.

In restaurants

The usual causes of cross-contamination in restaurants include griddles or grills, frying oil and woks. Remember that the actual cooking of food poses an increased risk in a restaurant than the preparation area or cutting board used, but the risk is always there.

You can ask how the food was prepared and cooked. Make sure that you will double check with the server regarding fried foods and avoid eating anything fried in oil that has been used to cook a food that the individual might be allergic to.

In case there was a mistake with the food order, you have to return it and indicate the need for a new meal. Ice cream parlors, salad bars and buffet-style restaurants are at high risk for cross-contamination. In addition, scoops, spoons and serving tongs can be moved from one food to another, thus contaminating it.

Other useful tips to bear in mind

It is vital to wash thoroughly cutting boards, knives, spoons, counter surfaces between uses. Use hot foamy water and make sure they are carefully washed to prevent an allergic reaction.

Take note that seeds and nuts can leave behind an oily residue, possibly leaving behind allergen on counters, plates, cutting boards and tables. Contaminated areas should be cleaned using a household cleaning agent.

If meat or bagel slicers are not thoroughly cleaned, they can become contaminated with food allergens.

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