Your home is where you feel the safest at all times, and can let your hair down and put your feet up without any worries. Except maybe if you or a family member has food allergies, because then you need to be more careful than usual, since the tiniest amount of allergen could trigger a reaction.
It might not be possible to eliminate all allergens from your home, but you can certainly eliminate the risk of cross contamination by diligently adopting some habits and by unlearning some old ones. It may seem a little overwhelming in the beginning to change the way you buy and store food, as well as the way you cook, serve and eat it, but a little practice can help you override these challenges.
Label food items
A very simple way to ensure safety is to label every food item in the kitchen and pantry as ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’. The simplest way to do that is to color code them – make labels at home or buy them in bulk, in two colors only – one color should be for safe items, while the other for unsafe items. Use these stickers on every single item on every shelf in the kitchen, fridge and pantry to ensure that unsafe items are never mixed with the items that are safe for the family member with food allergy.
While cooking/ cleaning
While preparing food, work on clean counters, use clean chopping boards and knives, and be careful with measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, cooking pots and stirring spoons and similar equipment you use while cooking. When frying fish or eggs, boiling milk, or working with flour, ensure that the member allergic to these is at a safe distance, or enters the place after a while, when the air is clear of the fumes or fine particles.
Make it a habit for all family members to wash their hands before and after every meal so that there is no allergen transfer. They must also learn to not share food, no matter how tempting the other plate looks. Always clean counters after food preparation as well as tables, after having meals. Washing kitchen surfaces with soap and water helps keep surfaces free of food proteins.
- Consider separate shelves in the kitchen and fridge to store different foods, to further reduce the chances of cross contamination.
- It may be possible that you have the same items in ‘safe’ version as well as ‘unsafe’ version, like soy milk and cow’s milk. In that case, storing them away from each other, with labels, is imperative.
- Never buy an ‘unsafe’ item that has a packaging similar to a ‘safe’ item and vice versa.
- If a toddler has food allergies, get him his sippy cup/ tumbler/ plate/ spoon and bowl, etc. in a particular color only, so that he/she never reaches out for anyone else’s utensils.
Constant efforts and supervision are essential when a member at home has food allergies. It takes patience and persistence, but a good quality of life is worth the effort.