When your child has an allergy – especially when your toddler has allergies – it’s hard not to go into full blown protective mode. You screen everything they eat, from candy to fruit, and hope that they never eat anything they’re allergic to. Cooking at home can become a nightmare if you’re cooking for one specific person, and then the rest of your family on the side. That’s why it’s so important to prepare safe and clean food, free of any cross-contamination of allergens. In order to prepare clean and safe food the World Health Organisation has formulated certain standards:
- Choose your food smartly
- Cook it carefully
- Eat your food immediately
- Don’t store the food at a temperature favorable for pathogens/bacteria to grow
- Thoroughly reheat your stored food
- Prevent cross contamination
- Don’t allow anyone to touch your food with dirty hands
- Use clean and safe water
Toddler allergies and preparing safe and clean food is directly related to food allergy prevention
To understand the link between preparing a safe food for food allergy prevention, we need to look at the term cross-contact.
Cross-contact is when one food comes in contact with another, leaving traces of it on the other. For an allergic child, cross-contact can be a life-threatening event. For example: If a child is allergic to milk and milk products and he uses a cup to drink water that contains a trace of milk in it, he’ll have an allergic reaction. If a person doesn’t wash their hands after handling a fish and prepares a salad, they could be a source of transferring a fish protein into the food of a child who is allergic to fish.
Although the amount of protein transmission from one food to another is very small, it’s still enough to cause an immune response. That’s why you should always take notice of any food that says “May contain traces of <food allergen>” as it probably has traces of it through cross-contact.
Prevention of cross-contact
You should be careful about the type of food your child is having for any meal, and the utensils they’re using. Here is how parents can prevent any accidental contact.
Eating outside in a restaurant:
If your family is eating out in a restaurant and your toddler is allergic to peanut, you should inquire about the safety of food from your server. In spite of all the preventive measures, there is still a chance of cross-contact in a restaurant. You should ask about:
- Ingredients in the food your child is having
- Procedure of preparation
- All the preventive measures they have in place
- Use of separate gloves for every food
- The recipe containing peanut in it
- The separation of utensil of peanut-containing food from the food your child is having
The most common allergic reactions at restaurants were due to peanut and tree nut cross-contact. Results of this research show that most common sources of contact are bakeries, ice cream shops and Asian food restaurants. Dessert is the most common source of peanut allergy. 45% people experience an allergic attack even after giving prior notice to the restaurant about food allergy.
- Use separate utensils for food preparation.
- Wash your hands with soap instead of sanitizer.
- Prepare the food containing allergen after the allergen-free food with separate utensils.
- Use foil to cover grills or pans, and throw out after use.
Washing or scrapping maybe not enough to remove an allergen. The safest way is to buy a separate set of utensils for preparing allergen-free food. According to one study, the use of commercial cleaning soap is good to remove the protein component from utensils. Add a tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water, fill the spray bottle and use it to clean utensils.
Other preventive measures:
- Remove all the allergen-containing food from home
- Tag all the allergen-containing foods and store them in separate compartments
- Advice all the family members to clean their hands thoroughly after having a meal.