Around 32 million Americans have allergies, according to Food Allergy Research and Education, and among these, many have a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis.
Such is the danger of severe food allergies that simply using a utensil used on an offending food to prepare other foods, can set off powerful symptoms that can result in a medical visit.
If you have a food or respiratory allergy or you are living with someone who does, how can you go the extra mile, keeping your kitchen clean and spotless and taking the likelihood of an allergic reaction down to zero?
Daily Cleaning is Vital
When various people share a living space (and the kitchen is one spot everyone enters at least once or twice a day) and one of them has a serious food allergy, daily cleaning of your countertops is key.
A simple solution of rubbing alcohol, dish soap, and water will keep your countertops and central islands sparkling clean while removing traces or even microscopic components of offending foods.
Also give a wipedown to handles, fridge doors, and any other surfaces which are used often.
Separate Storage is Key
A person with a severe food allergy should ideally keep far away from offending ingredients. To do so, they will need their own ‘safe’ shelf in the pantry.
If you don’t have a separate pantry, divide kitchen storage space into ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ zones, placing these as far as possible from each other as possible.
In general, being wise about what ingredients you bring into your kitchen is important. As a general rule, always look for ‘safe foods’ for all, so as to reduce the chance of cross-contamination.
Keeping Foods in a Fresh State
Sometimes, allergies caused by food ingestion are related not just to ingredients, but also to microscopic fungi. Mold allergies affect respiratory health but can also cause digestive upset if they are encountered on food.
Only keep food until its used-by date, using a menu planning system to reduce waste. Throw food out if you notice mold on it; simply scraping away the offensive black/green part will not make food safe, since mold grows deep roots way beneath the surface.
To keep surface mold to a minimum, meanwhile, ensure surfaces are completely dry; fungi love humid, wet surfaces. Clean all surfaces that come into contact with water and food daily if possible.
Purchasing Necessary Equipment and Utensils
You may need to buy more than one version of popular equipment if someone has an allergy. For instance, those who have wheat allergies will benefit greatly from having their own toaster.
They should also ideally have their own utensils (color coding can help), both for eating and for cooking. You may also wish to invest in equipment to make foods that may be hard to find in stores.
A pasta maker, meat slicer, and waffle maker will enable you to change recipes for treats the whole family loves.
Keeping an Emergency Kit Nearby
Find a safe spot in the kitchen in which to keep your emergency kit. It should contain important telephone numbers, health card numbers, and emergency instructions so that anyone attending to someone affected knows the correct protocol to follow.
If the person with allergies has been prescribed an EpiPen (which shuts down the allergic response), this pen should be in your emergency kit.
Food and respiratory allergies are common, and while they can be potentially dangerous, they can be kept in check with a few simple steps.
These include storing food and utensils for those with allergies, in separate spaces. Frequent cleaning, sticking to expiry dates, and keeping an emergency kit at hand will also help your family feel more secure.