Preventing cross-contact among ingredients is a difficult task. As the rate of food allergies and other dining sensitivities among customers grow, the importance of eliminating sources of cross-contact becomes essential. Identifying sources of cross-contact as well as preventative measures will help ensure a safe and enjoyable dining experience among customers.
The first step in preventing cross-contact is to identify areas that have an increased risk of transferring food particles to other items. Sources of cross-contact are everywhere in a kitchen, even the kitchen sink! Top problem areas include: cutting boards, utensils, unwashed hands and a general lack of caution during preparation. Fortunately, there are easy steps to take to reduce the risk of sharing unwanted food particles.
Cutting boards are useful multi-purpose instruments in the kitchen, but if improperly cleaned, they can harbor food particles and spread them throughout meals. From chopping tree nuts to slicing the catch of the day, cutting boards are exposed to many common allergens. To eliminate the potential of spreading allergens throughout the kitchen, try designating separate cutting boards for different foods. Ensure boards are properly cleaned by thoroughly washing them after each use.
Kitchen utensils are also a major source of food allergen cross-contact. Just touching the handle of a spatula or brushing butter on a loaf of bread to achieve the perfect golden crust can transfer food particles between recipes. It’s important to remember to use new utensils between dishes, especially when cooking with any of the big eight allergens (wheat, soy, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs and fish). Try picking a colored handle to designate “allergen-free” cookware. Purple is commonly used in kitchens to help employees and customers easily identify allergy-safe utensils. Properly cleaning utensils in warm soapy water and sanitizing after each use will also help to avoid spreading food allergens.
One of the most common modes of cross contact occurs through our hands. Unwashed hands or a failure to apply new gloves during recipe preparation can quickly spread contaminants from food to food. Even if your gloves or hands look clean, hidden contaminates can linger on the surface. After handling ingredients, wash your hands or change your gloves to avoid cross-contact.
When trying to avoid cross-contact mistakes in a kitchen, keep these ideas in mind.

  1. Assign specific cutting boards for certain foods. For example, use one board for raw meat and poultry products, one board for prepared items, like breads and produce, and another board for allergens such as a “gluten-free board”. The separation among boards can greatly reduce the chance of cross-contact during meal preparation.
  2. Remember to wash your hands, especially after handling fish, eggs, or any other common allergens. Lather hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (or the length of the “Happy Birthday” song).
  3. Make allergen-safe kitchen items easy to identify by assigning them a specific color. Keep utensils, cutting boards and small appliances, like toasters, in a designated location to avoid cross-contact among common allergens.
  4. Be mindful of your food preparation and storage. Keep things clean and isolated. Store products in air-tight containers to avoid the infiltration of other food particles.

When avoiding food allergen cross-contact, be aware and focused on your preparations. Remember to wash your hands frequently and designate specific utensils and surfaces for allergen-free meal preparation. Being aware of allergens and taking preventative measures will help guarantee safe and enjoyable meals. If you or your company is interested in learning more about how to avoid allergen cross-contact check out one of the 90-minute courses that teaches about food allergies and gluten-free, AllerTrain™,  you can find the list of upcoming classes by clicking here.