Cross-contact (Cross-contamination)

Trace amounts of an allergen may be enough to trigger a severe allergic reaction. Because of this, all contact, including cross-contact (or cross-contamination), must be avoided. Cross-contact occurs when two foods inadvertently come into contact with one another. This can happen with contaminated surfaces such as hands, cutting boards, serving utensils, dishcloths, or sponges.

Avoiding cross-contact

  • Prepare the allergen-free meal before the others. This will reduce the risk of cross-contact.
  • Ensure excellent hygiene practices at each step of meal preparation.
    • Ensure proper hand hygiene, using warm water and soap before handling food and kitchen tools (cleaning wipes may work, but antibacterial gels are ineffective).
    • Use new sponges and freshly cleaned cloths and aprons.
    • Wash counters with a household degreasing cleanser.
    • Wash dishes with hot water, making sure that the dish soap is well dissolved.
  • Be aware that heat does not destroy allergens.
    • Microwave foods in a clean microwave, and heat allergen-free foods first.
    • Keep allergen-free foods safe on the BBQ by wrapping them in foil or in a papillote container
    • Do not reuse the oil from your fryer if it has been contaminated by food allergens.
    • The toaster can also be a source of contamination. Use protective Toaster bag-type pouches if necessary.
  • Use a clean utensil with each ingredient (condiments, flour, butter or other) and when serving your dish.
  • Make sure that the allergic person’s serving plates, utensils, tablecloth/placemat, napkin, and chair are also clean.
  • Be vigilant at the grocery store.
    • Avoid bulk food as the risk of contamination is high.
    • Avoid using coffee grinders (used for hazelnut-flavoured varieties, for example).
    • Check to see if unpackaged meat and fish are on the same counter.
    • Check if delicatessens slicing machines and knives are used for both delicatessen and cheese. In addition, some deli meats contain priority allergens (nuts, wheat, milk, eggs, mustard, etc.), so make sure the equipment is completely clean before slicing your items.
    • At the bakery avoid having your bread sliced, as breads with nuts, sesame or cheese may have been previously sliced with the same equipment.
    • Use caution when buying foods prepared in shops as with artisanal products, as they are not regulated by the Canadian Priority Allergen Labelling Act.