I have had many allergic reactions from contamination. Something like using the toaster at home carries a high risk of contamination, so I always make sure to wrap my food in foil beforehand. Even a bubble boiling over from one pot to the other is enough to trigger a reaction. This also affects the food that I am able to purchase. Since I have to be cautious of what I eat, it requires a lot of research. I need to know where it’s coming from, what ingredients are included, and even the process of how it is made. Since cross-contamination can be unpredictable, I try to do what I can to control this risk.
Below are some tips to avoid cross-contamination in different situations.
- Keep problematic foods with allergens far from where you prepare food and eat
- Clean all surfaces thoroughly before and after food prep
- Any foods containing allergens should also only be eaten in dedicated areas of the kitchen or eating space, so that any residue does not carry to other areas of the home
- Label everything appropriately so that residents or visitors are able to recognize the potential dangers of the foods if they are interacting with them
- Designate special utensils for food preparation areas and “allergen-free” use
- Read labels carefully, looking for any mention of the food to which you’re allergic
- Look out for statements such as “processed in a facility that also manufactures wheat” or similar messages. This will inform you if there’s a risk that nuts or some of the other most common food allergens may be present.
- If you are not confident about the information or something isn’t addressed on the label, it’s better to be safe and refrain until you contact the company and address your concerns.
When Dining Out:
- Inform the server of your allergies and ask about the food preparation process. Don’t be afraid to double-check with your server to be safe.
- If there happens to be a mistake with your order and needs to be sent back, be sure the server understands you need a brand new meal. Simply removing the item, especially if it is an allergen, does not solve the problem as the meal has been cross-contaminated.
- Be aware that fried foods are a common source of cross-contamination, if they are cooking it in the same oil it can lead to an allergic reaction.
- Try to avoid buffet-style restaurants, salad bars and ice cream parlors. These places can be high risk since scoops and serving tongs can be moved from one food to another and cross-contamination is very likely.
The main idea is to be conscious of what you are eating, and minimize your risk of a bad time. Now that the lecture has ended, let’s get to the food.