Foods that cause allergic reactions are called allergens. Even the tiniest trace of an allergen can result in an allergic reaction. For that reason, if you are dealing with people with food allergies, it’s important to use the utmost caution.
One of the most important things to avoid is cross-contact of food allergens. This occurs when a food item that a person is allergic to is inadvertently transferred to a food item that is supposedly allergen-free. Cross-contact usually happens during the food preparation stage. It may occur in the kitchen through the use of instruments such as a knife or a cutting board. If these same instruments are used to prepare one type of food, then transferred to another food without being washed in between, allergens can be transferred.
You can avoid the transfer of allergens at home by doing the following:
- Avoid cup mix-ups – If your child has an allergy to milk, assign a cup for his or her exclusive use.
- Don’t spread allergens – When people eat foods that could trigger reactions in members of the family who have allergies, they should be careful not to spread the allergens all over the house. In cases of severe allergies, just touching or smelling a trigger food can lead to major health problems. All family members should develop the habit of washing hands before and after eating.
- Wash the dishes – Dishes that may be used by a person with food allergies should be washed with soap and hot water prior to meal preparation.
- Label foods – If people in your home have allergies, you can label foods as “safe” or “unsafe.” If you are using an unsafe ingredient in preparing food, you will know to use extra caution. Don’t store safe and unsafe foods in the same area. Divide them between two different storage areas.
Allergic reactions can range from irritating to downright perilous, with the most severe reactions sending blood pressure out of control and constricting the airways. Use extreme caution to avoid food cross-contact that could endanger family members.