How to Turn Your Home into a Food Allergen “Safe Space”

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When your child has a food allergy but other people in your family continue to eat the allergen, life becomes more challenging and potentially dangerous. You have to take steps to contain the allergen.

To accommodate your child’s allergy, turn your home into a food allergen “safe space.” This approach allows some family members to continue eating the allergen while keeping your allergic child safe.

Avoid Cross-Contact

When an allergen or item used to prepare the allergen comes in contact with a safe food, the safe food can become contaminated and cause an allergic reaction. This is known as cross-contact. For example, if you remove a piece of cheese from a sandwich, the rest of the sandwich has still been in contact with the cheese and could cause a reaction. To create a safe space for those with food allergens, you need to avoid cross-contact of allergens with other foods. This process involves keeping foods separate as well as keeping preparation tools, surfaces and equipment clean.

To keep allergens and safe foods away from each other:

  • Don’t serve a food that came in contact with the allergen, even if you removed the allergen

  • Separate foods with designated shelves and containers

  • Use sealed containers to prevent contact

  • Use labels to designate allergens or safe foods

  • Don’t share cooking oils

To keep food preparation items safe, follow these tips:

  • Don’t use the same spatula, spoon, cutting board, food processor or other food preparation item for a safe food after using it with an allergen without properly cleaning it first

  • Wash your hands after handling an allergen and before you make a safe food

  • Thoroughly clean counters and cooking spaces before preparing an allergy-safe meal

  • Consider using separate food preparation items that you designate as allergy safe by color coding; use a separate set of utensils for handling food

Making and Eating a Meal

When cooking, keep your child away from food preparation with the allergen in case it becomes airborne. It’s best to prepare the allergy-safe meal first and then keep it separated from the other meals. Serve the allergen-friendly meal on a special plate that identifies it as separate.

Make sure the whole family washes their hands before and after the meal so no one spreads allergens. Also, do not serve the allergy-safe meal with utensils that touched other foods. You may want to keep a young child separated from their brother or sister at the dinner table, so they don’t eat a sibling’s food.

Keep Snacks in Mind

Allergens aren’t only a problem at mealtime. Snacks can also pose a challenge. Ask your whole family and guests to wash their hands with soap and water after eating snacks to avoid spreading any allergens around the house. It can also be helpful to designate eating areas to avoid crumbs and traces from spreading.

Also, separate safe snacks from other snacks just as you would separate meal ingredients. You can put snacks into separate designated containers and areas in the kitchen.

Use the same precautions to make homemade snacks as you would to prepare meals. Otherwise, there are many safe packaged foods available that can provide an easy snack for your child.

It takes some planning and careful execution, but it’s definitely possible to create a food allergen “safe space” without restricting the rest of your family from eating the allergen. If it makes your life easier, you could consider using meal delivery services and snack box delivery to have allergen-safe meal kits and snacks sent to you.

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Personalized plates like this and other designated dishes help avoid cross-contact and keep your home an allergen safe-space.