Keeping the Kitchen Safe
As allergy watchdogs, we can do everything in our power to make sure the food that is purchased, prepared and served is free of our allergies and intolerances, but at the end of the day, cross contamination is a very real and possible threat. As I mentioned in the Equipment List, every family has their own comfort zone as to what is kept in the house and kitchen and what isn’t.
What do we do in the KBFC house?
I’m about to make a controversial statement, so here it is…we keep most of Casey’s allergens in the house. I will not allow any nuts or seeds in the house and I do my best to not buy anything with a may contain statement for either. Casey has such an extensive list of allergies that I want him to be aware of all the foods he cannot have and must avoid. We did keep peanut butter in the house before he passed his peanut challenge, but it was individual wrapped portions and used disposable knives for making sandwiches for my oldest son to bring to school. One of the best things we did was get him a play kitchen. He learned about all kinds of food, identified it “safe” or not, but was still able to learn all the names. It quickly became one of his favorite toys and a little over a year later, it is still played with weekly.
This decision was not made with much thought and I advise you, as I did, to speak with your allergist at length about what is right for your family. I asked my doctor if I was reckless for doing this and he said, “You are only reckless if you let him get it in his mouth.” So, with that, we made our changes. Again, please only do what you are comfortable with. Here are some of my tactics to avoid cross contamination and possible accidents in the kitchen.
- ALWAYS wash your hands before cooking/baking! I think this is needlessly said, but hey, you never know! A common misconception is that using hand sanitizer is sufficient but it is not! The act of washing or using a commercial tidy wipe is necessary to actually remove the proteins from your hands/surface. Sanitizer will only move it around. Besides removing any offending possible allergens, it’s just good hygiene!
- I use one side of my counter for Casey’s cooking or baking and always wash the surface with a detergent wipe or spray before starting. The family knows that’s his designated space and we keep it as clear as possible.
- Designate safe spaces in pantries, cabinets, refrigerator and freezer. Casey has half a pantry, a shelf on the highest part of the fridge and a drawer in the freezer. He knows that is his safe foods and anything he cannot have is out of reach. In the refrigerator his things are on the highest shelf to avoid contact as well.
- Think about using new cookware, especially cast iron, non stick pans, and cutting boards post diagnosis. They are porous and will hold the food proteins. I got an inexpensive set of the basic necessary pots and pans and baking molds. Again, this is according to your comfort level. If you have all allergens removed from your home then this isn’t an issue.
- This may be a little nit-picky on my part, but I try to be careful of buying items that the labels may look like the safe one. For example, Casey can and needs to have baked milk, but cannot have it straight. His safe milk is So Delicious coconut milk, the red refrigerated or shelf stable brand. I buy Horizon milk to use for his baking and his brothers to drink. It has a red carton as well. Last week during the business of preparing for a houseful of people on Christmas Eve, he was accidentally poured a cup of regular milk by accident by my mom, whom I trust with him implicitly. I happened to be standing right there and saw it almost get real ugly, real fast. She felt so unbelievably sorry and it was just another example of how even in the most vigilant homes and situations, accidents can always happen.
- Read EVERY LABEL EVERY TIME. This is absolute non-negotiable in our allergy lives. I’ve bought things in the supermarket that a week earlier had a safe ingredient list and the next did not.
- Always have 2 epinephrine auto injectors on hand at all times. Under our best care and best vigilance, a mistake can happen. Be prepared with your action plan and run through drills. We keep a sign by our front and driveway door that reminds to check that we have Casey’s epinephrine before we leave the house.
I hope some of the tips are helpful with navigating allergies and cooking your home. It can be a very healing process to take back control and get back in that kitchen. Have your family involved and enjoy the process! And remember, life is better when dessert is first! 💙😉
As we all know, reading labels and preparing food when managing allergies is a job within itself with much responsibility. All the brands I use are ones that I have contacted, and Casey has eaten safely. That being said, I must remind…
Please do your own research when deciding which products and foods are safe for the allergies you manage. These are the ones that are safe for our needs but may not be for you. Everyone has different comfort levels with manufacturing and production procedures.
And, as a friendly reminder, always have 2 epinephrine auto injectors on hand!