Beware of Cross Contamination

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Even if you're careful not to eat the food you're allergic to, cross contamination can occur

Parents of children who are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts are usually very cautious about what their child eats. They read about various foods that may contain peanuts and they check each food ingredient list before letting their child eat cookies, crackers, or other foods. Cross contamination is another concern that parents must be aware of.

What is cross contamination and how does it happen?

Cross contamination happens when a food that does not cause peanut allergy symptoms comes in contact with another food product that did have peanuts in it. This can can happen in restaurants or in food processing plants. It can even happen in your home if someone in your family eats peanut butter, candy bars with peanuts, or other foods. A few crumbs of a candy bar or cookie containing peanut butter may accidentally fall into a food that your peanut allergic child is going to eat. If no one notices, the child may begin to show symptoms of this allergy. It can easily happen in a restaurant if French fries are cooked in the same oil that another food with peanuts was previously fried in. It happens in food processing plants, even when all of the required procedures for cleaning equipment have been followed.

How can cross contamination be avoided?

Most people educate their family and children by explaining how important it is not to let the child who is allergic to peanuts eat anything that has been touched by peanuts. They use peanut free baking and usually do not allow peanut butter in their home. Eating in restaurants presents a few more challenges, but asking lots of questions can prevent eating foods that may have been cooked in the same oil or cut with the same knife that cut a piece of peanut butter pie for another customer. If a food label of a processed food says, "May contain peanuts," most parents do not take chances. They avoid the food and don't let their child have it.

If you or your child have had a serious reaction to peanuts, you will want to avoid them

Peanut allergy awareness is the best way to be sure that you or your child do not have another episode after eating something that has been cross contaminated with peants in any way. Cross contamination happens without anyone knowing it most of the time, and the general public is only beginning to understand the seriousness of peanut allergies. You can help restaurant managers, waiters, food manufacturers, or your child's teacher and others at the school know how important it is that your child does not eat even the smallest amount of food that has been cross contaminated by peanuts.

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