If you, a family member, or a guest have a serious or life-threatening allergy, you know how important it is to avoid cross-contact of allergens in the kitchen. Otherwise, there is a chance an epi-pen and a trip to the emergency room will be necessary. Celiac disease is another example of how even the slightest of crumbs can have detrimental effects. Care and vigilance is required when shopping and cooking with food allergens in mind.
At the Store
Always read ingredients statements and signage every time you shop. When shopping, keep problematic foods separate from other foods—place them in a different grocery cart and keep them separate at the checkout counter; store in separate bags. Avoid foods from bulk bins, salad bars, and the deli counter since there could be cross-contact at these sites.
When you get home, follow these guidelines to help limit cross-contact:
Set Up a Storage System. Use squeeze bottles for condiments and other liquids to eliminate double dipping. If possible, simply choose condiments free from the allergen; if this is not possible, clearly label the option that is allergen-free or gluten-free. Store allergen- and/or gluten-free foods on separate shelves in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.
Use clean equipment and dishes. Based on the food(s) that need to be avoided and when necessary and possible, use separate utensils (for food prep and eating) and small appliances. Prepare and cook allergen- and/or gluten-free dishes first and with clean equipment. Be sure the surface you’re using is clean as well. Depending on your needs, consider a dedicated space for food prep.
Wash frequently. Wash and sterilize hands, silverware, dishes, equipment, and surfaces—anything that comes into contact with the allergen- or gluten-free food being prepared. Use hot, soapy water when washing.
Check out my cookbook for an entire chapter on allergen information, cooking allergy free and maintaining an allergy free lifestyle.