If your child has a food allergy, it only takes a small amount of a food allergen being present in their food to induce a reaction. Cross contamination is defined as the transfer of bacteria from one substance to another. Here are some helpful tips to keep your child safe and prevent any accidental cross contamination.
1. Contact manufacturers to find out if their products are produced on shared lines
While the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 requires products containing major food allergens to be listed on the ingredient list, it does not require companies to declare if their products are processed in a shared facility or if they “may contain” some of the major food allergens. To ensure a product is safe for your child, contact the manufacturer to learn about their facility and manufacturing process.
Keep in mind, this law does not cover prescription drugs, OTC drugs, personal care items such as toothpaste or shampoo, USDA regulated products such as meat, Kosher labeling, street vendors, festival foods, or fast-food restaurants. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer before consuming.
2. Wash your hands before preparing food
It is important to wash your hands before and after preparing you child’s food, since small amounts of allergens may be present on your hands. Using soap and warm water is the best way to remove these allergens; or change your gloves if you are using them to prepare food.
3. Keep surfaces clean and use safe cleaning products
Clean surfaces are an important step for preventing cross-contamination. You can use soap and water to wash your counters, stove, and sink, or you can use cleaning products. When using cleaning products, check the ingredient list to ensure they don’t contain any of your child’s allergens.
4. Use separate equipment and utensils
While you can wash some utensils to remove allergens, it is not always 100% effective. We recommend having a separate allergen-free toaster, cutting board, pans, and other utensils. This is especially important for appliances such as toasters, since small amounts of allergens can get stuck on the grill.
5. Prepare allergen-free food first
When making food for the entire family, prepare you child’s allergen-free meal first. This will help minimize the risk of cross contamination. Once their meal is complete, store it in a safe place away from allergens until it is time to eat.
6. Have allergen-free and regular condiments
Shared condiments often contain allergens from people double-dipping. To avoid this issue, we recommend having two of the same condiment, one that is labelled allergen-free and one regular for everyone else in the family.
7. Store ingredients properly
If you are storing food products in containers that are not the original packaging, please remember to keep ingredient labels with their respective container so you can check the labels again later if necessary. We also recommend keeping allergen-free products on your top shelves, so allergens don’t accidentally knock over and spill into the allergen-free foods.
8. Encourage your family to wash their hands before they eat
It can be easy for your child to forget to wash their hands before they eat. Having the whole family wash their hands will instill a habit for your child and help them feel included. Training them to wash their hands before they touch their face is key to preventing cross contamination.