Cross Contamination: Preventing It

website contamination

“Don’t kiss a boy with your mouth open.  Boys have germs.”

It was the summer before I was slated to begin my first year at college when my mother decided to have “the talk” with me.   What I was expecting, I really don’t know, but the statements above were not it.

I wisely refrained from telling my mother that I had already violated her late-coming mandate, and only later, with my friends, did I laugh about the “cooties” theory of relationships.  I knew my mother meant well, and having been raised in an entirely different time and culture, she had no way of knowing that my modern American teenage life was unlike her Korean childhood.

Contamination concerns

I realized, as well, that my mother simply wanted to protect me as I left home to begin my “independent” life.  She cared, and I was glad she did.

In the same way, people tend to care about and be protective of family members who have food allergies.  They worry about possible cross-contamination, and since cross-contamination can be a matter of life or death for some folks, it’s definitely worthy of thought and concern. The two concerns most people have are that they might accidentally contaminate food being served or that they think it’s difficult to prevent such a thing from occurring.

Some Tips

My personal tips, though, are:

1.  Don’t stress! Avoiding cross contamination is not difficult.  You just need to be pro-active.

2.  If the allergies in the family are severe, keeping two separate sets of cooking utensils and pots or pans is one way method to use.  Have different styles and colors of each so you can easily identify which ones you use for regular cooking and which ones you use for the allergy cooking.   So, for example when I make eggs for the rest of the family using a little bit of butter (which they prefer), I have a larger egg pan which I use to make their eggs.  On the burner next to theirs I use a smaller pan to make my egg which I usually cook with olive oil.

3.  Another thing you can do either in conjunction with or instead of having two separate utensils and pans for everything is simply to wash things in hot water and soap in between the uses. Whenever I’m cooking for someone with a peanut allergy which happens to be one of the few food allergies no one in our family currently has, I first wash everything I’m going to use for baking or cooking in hot, soapy water and dry them with a clean fresh towel even before I begin cooking. Numerous studies have shown that any contaminating residue from what you’ve cooked before is definitely washed away with a good scrubbing in hot, soapy water.

4. A third method you can utilize is to invest in parchment paper which I use all the time. It’s great because you can line your cookie sheet or insert it in your tube pan or put it on your casserole dish for any cooking or baking and then simply remove it, which keeps the food from contaminating your pans.  During the holidays when I have to bake all sorts of different items — gluten free, egg free, sugar free, nut free, etc… — along with traditional baked goods, the parchment paper comes in very handy as I simply remove and reline with each different goodie I’m baking.

Chocolate Chip Bars

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour or 2 cups Authentic Foods gluten free blend

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup soy free Earth Balance “butter”

3/4 cup Agave

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups Enjoy Life allergen free mini chocolate chips

Baking Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line a 11 x 17 x 1 inch cookie sheet with parchment paper slightly larger than the pan, so the ends hang off.

3.  Mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together.  Set aside.

4.  In a mixer, cream the butter until smooth.

5.  Slowly pour the Agave into the butter with the mixer mixing on low speed until the Agave is completely incorporated into the butter.

6.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between each addition.

7.  Add the vanilla.

8.  Slowly add the flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, mixing on low until all the flour is incorporated.

9.  Add the chocolate chips.

10.  Carefully spread the batter into the pan, using a rubber spatula to make sure the batter is evenly spread throughout the entire pan.

11.  Bake for about 20 minutes until the batter is golden and puffed.

12.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.  (This stores well by simply covering it tightly with plastic wrap or foil.)

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