32 million Americans have a food allergy, with 200,000 of those people requiring emergency medical care for an allergic reaction each year.
That’s why it is so important to ensure an allergen does not end up in a dish you are serving. One way allergens can end up in food is through cross-contact—when an allergen’s proteins come into contact with another food and mix. Even the smallest traces of an allergen could cause an allergic reaction.
Unlike pathogenic bacteria, cooking does not get rid of the allergen. Once an allergen comes into contact with the dish, the allergen’s proteins are in the dish. And if served to someone with that particular allergy, it could cause and allergic reaction. That is why knowing the proper procedures for handling allergens and preventing cross-contact is so crucial.
The following tips will help you prevent cross-contact and protect your customers.
Use a separate storage area for common food allergens. That way if anything spills or leaks, it does not contaminate other food and cause an allergic reaction somewhere down the road.
Knives, cutting boards, counters, utensils, and any equipment or surfaces that comes into contact with food need to be cleaned and sanitized before preparing an allergen-free meal. Allergen proteins can linger if not properly sanitized between each use.
Be cautious when preparing an allergen-free meal so an allergen does not touch it.
If an allergen comes into contact when preparing an allergen-free meal, do not try to pick it out and do not serve the dish. Once the allergen is in the dish, its proteins are present and serving it would put an allergy sufferer at risk of an allergic reaction. Remember, allergens cannot be cooked off, and even the smallest trace of an allergen could cause an allergic reaction. Discard the dish, then start over.
To learn more about preventing allergen cross-contact, check out our allergen awareness course.