Cooking Around Allergies
Food can be very good for you, but many people must deal with allergies to certain foods. Some are allergic to things like peanuts, milk, or gluten.
If exposed to allergens, it can cause bad, possibly fatal, consequences. Thus, if you plan on cooking for anyone with a food allergy or intolerance, there are a few rules you have to abide by.
The first, and most important, step is to insure that you are not using any products with the forbidden food.
Depending on the food allergy, this can be trickier than you would initially think. Be sure to ask your guest for any tips or special instructions.
Many foods often contain trace elements of nuts, fish, milk, or gluten, and this catches a lot of people by surprise. Always look on the label for the list of ingredients, and make sure you read any warnings (ie. may contain nuts).
Now that you are sure that none of the food you are using contains the target allergens, what about your utensils? The pots? Your hands? All these things can be contaminated. Always make sure you wash everything thoroughly and keep utensils and other implements separated. If you are cooking other dishes with the allergen, be very careful.
Care must be taken when you are in the process of actually cooking the food. If you are using peanut oil, for example, make sure it does not splatter onto the peanut free food or utensils. Often, it is recommended that you cook any sensitive food before you cook anything else. Not only does this prevent you from accidentally spilling any contaminants into the food, but it prevents you from mixing up your utensils.
If an allergy-free food ends up contaminated (for example, you used the same knife to scoop peanut butter and then jam), treat the entire jam container as contaminated. Often, only trace elements of an allergen needs to be present to trigger an allergic reaction. No one can get every molecule of contaminant out of a food product, so don’t even try.
Honesty is Best
If you are at all unsure about your cooking conditions don’t try to hide it from your guest. Tell them that your kitchen isn’t safe for their allergy.
If you let them know ahead of time, they can make their own arrangements for food (ie bring it from home). Even if you realize as soon as you serve the food that it may be unsafe, let them know immediately. Don’t be embarrassed.
Going to Potlucks
If you are attending a potluck and are unsure if anyone has sensitivities or allergies. Cover your bases, and ensure the safety of the guests by:
- Label any homemade dishes that may contain food allergens
- Take a picture of the ingredient list of foods that have been removed from their packaging. Tell the hosts that you have these pictures so those with allergies can look them over.
Taking these precautions will be a great help for those with allergies and they will appreciate the thoughtfulness.
Anyone who has food allergies will tell you that it is better to go hungry for a bit than risk a reaction. They will appreciate your honesty and concern for their health.