When living dairy free in the same household as others who may have different diets, you may be wondering how to best share the kitchen. If you live dairy free by choice, perhaps cross contact is not an issue for you, but when it comes to leftovers, you’ll definitely want to grab yours with confidence! If your child has a dairy allergy or any allergy for that matter, it is essential that the kitchen is safe from storage to preparation to cleanup.
- Have a separate shelf in the refrigerator for your child’s food. Also, have a separate pantry shelf for their allergen free food.
- I used color coded sticky dots to label food. Green dots for food that is allowed and red dots for food that must be avoided. Your child can help put the labels on the products so they become familiar with the packaging. Continue to always read the ingredients even if the packaging has not changed because ingredients change.
- Keep original packaging/labels with the foods, don’t condense products. That way you won’t question whether the food is safe or not. Labeling is extremely important.
- Never reuse plastic zip-lock bags.
- Do not leave unacceptable, unsafe food within reach of your food allergic child. An innocent accident could happen.
- Everyone should wash their hands often.
- It is always best to use plastic or plexiglass cutting boards that can easily be washed in the dishwasher. Wood cutting boards absorb possible allergens and must be disinfected after every use.
- Get your child/children involved in their food preparation as soon as possible. They love measuring and mixing ingredients.
- You may want to buy your child, his or her, own set of measuring spoons, spatulas, whisks, etc. or at least color-code utensils so everyone knows which are used for allergen free baking/cooking.
- You may want to purchase special dishes, cups, sippy cups, utensils for your child. Find a favorite theme or color to make them feel special and safe.
- You may want to consider leaving special scoopers in the flour, sugar, and brown sugar containers/bags. That way you can reduce the possibility that the dry ingredients will be contaminated by food allergens like nuts etc.
- Wash the cookie/baking sheets well. If still concerned, you could line the cookie sheet with foil and then spray it with an allowed non-stick cooking spray.
- When in doubt, do without. If you think you may have a cross contact issue, do not eat the food. Either start preparation over, give it to someone without food allergies, or just throw it out.
- If you are preparing both “safe” and “unsafe” food for the same meal, prepare the safe meal first.
- Do not use the same utensils to prepare allergenic and non-allergenic dishes.
- When cooking on the stovetop, be careful of the types of food you are preparing. Some allergens could splatter into the non-allergen food. It is always best to prepare the allergen free food first and then the food containing allergens afterwards. Be sure to use separate utensils to stir the different foods.
- If you barbecue, be sure to scrape the grill racks before cooking for your child. Consider using foil or a clean grill pan to prepare foods. Have designated safe grilling utensils
- After each meal/snack, always use a clean cloth to wipe your child’s face and hands. Never use a dish cloth or dish towel.
- Change the kitchen towels and/or dish cloths after each meal if you have been cooking with foods that contain allergens to reduce the risk of cross contact. Or you could have a special hand towel for your food allergic child to use, something they can make their own.
- Wash kitchen supplies used to cook for food allergic individuals with hot, soapy water or use the dishwasher. It is always best to rinse off dirty dishes and utensils before loading them into your dishwasher so pieces of dried allergens won’t stick to your clean dishes.
- Sweep your floor as often as possible between washings.
- Make sure everyone knows the “Rules of the Kitchen”, this includes family members, visitors, care-givers, everyone involved with the care of your child.
- Food and drinks should be kept in the kitchen to avoid the possibility of spreading allergens around your home.