Over 15 million Americans are currently living with food allergies. When you have a guest with a food allergy, it is important that you take the necessary steps to provide them with a safe dining experience as even the slightest amount of cross-contact can result in a potentially fatal allergic reaction. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), cross-contact occurs “when an allergen is unintentionally transferred from one food to another.” A common example of cross-contact is dipping knife that was used to spread peanut butter into the jar of jelly. Cross-contact should not be confused with cross-contamination. Fortunately, cross-contact is something that can be avoided by following some simple precautions.
Here are four easy tips to help your restaurant and kitchen prevent cross-contact.
1. Wash Your Hands – It should be obvious to all that clean hands are a must in every kitchen, but it is absolutely critical to wash your hands with soap and warm water and use clean gloves before beginning prep of any allergen-free meal. Servers should also wash their hands prior to delivering the allergen-free meal to the guest.
2. Clean and Sanitize Surfaces and Utensils – Prior to beginning prep of any allergen-free meal it is important to give all surfaces and utensils a thorough washing with warm soapy water to remove any residual allergens. It is also important to not overlook the front of the house when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing surfaces such as booths, tables, counters, etc.
3. “Allergen Free” Equipment – A good way to reduce the risk of cross-contact is by designating certain tools and areas used for food prep as “allergen-free.” Purple-colored cutting boards, knives, hand tools, utility carts and more are all available from a variety of manufacturers to help the kitchen staff easily identify which products are to be used for allergen-free meal prep.
4. Use a Barrier – When preparing allergen-free meals, it is always important to use a barrier such as foil or a cutting board to protect the ingredients from any cross-contact with any residual food particles from the surface underneath.
Also, the FARE website contains many valuable resources for restaurants as it relates to managing allergies, including online training and downloadable posters for your kitchen.