To protect your food allergic child (or your food allergic self) you may have mastered the art of cross-contamination avoidance.
It’s also important that other family, teachers, babysitters, friendly neighbors, and the parents of your child’s friends know enough about cross-contamination to help your loved one remain safe.
Others may realize that cross-contamination is when a bit of food allergen finds its way into another food accidentally, but this nugget of understanding may not be sufficient to prevent a cross-contamination reaction.
A Variety of Ways
At the very least, those who spend any time around your child should know the various ways cross-contamination can occur:
- From food to food. Food to food contamination happens when the allergen from an offending* food gets into another food. Nuts sprinkled on a chocolate sundae, or a salad can contaminate the ice cream, chocolate sauce, or any of the other salad ingredients. Picking the offending food out of a dish does not make it safe since cross-contamination will already have occurred.
- From hands to food, or objects. If hands are not thoroughly washed after handling an offending food, allergens left on the hands can contaminate any food or object subsequently handled.
- From food to an object. Objects include dishes, glasses, cookware, knives, forks, spoons, cooking utensils, and table or counter tops. Any object that is not properly cleaned after coming into contact with an offending food can then 1) directly expose an allergic individual to the allergen, or 2) can transfer the allergen to other objects or foods.
- For instance, a spoon used to scoop peanut butter could, if not carefully cleaned, cause a reaction 1) when an allergic child touches the spoon or eats with it, or 2) if the allergic individual touches a counter top contaminated by the spoon.
- From food to saliva. When an offending food is eaten, its allergen proteins can remain in the saliva of people or pets up to several hours. The allergens can then be transferred to others via kissing, or by sharing dishes and eating utensils. Young children are especially susceptible to saliva contamination since they tend to put most anything in their mouth, including pet toys.
Unless people are close to someone with a
, they cannot know what living with an allergy entails. Sharing this information with others will not only help keep your child safe, but it creates an awareness of the difficulties involved in trying to protect those at risk for food reactions, including anaphylaxis.
*Offending food refers to any food an individual is allergic to.