Cross contamination, food allergies concern for many around holidays

Officials with Hattiesburg Clinic give tips on holiday food safety
Officials with Hattiesburg Clinic give tips on holiday food safety(Hattiesburg Clinic)
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 5:50 PM CST
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - With the holiday season in full swing, several folks may be prepping dishes for their child’s class party or for a family gathering, but there are several food allergens and precautions to keep in mind while cooking.

It’s the time of year for holiday parties and family gatherings, and while the best part may be the food... for some, it can be a nightmare.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 13 children, or about two kids per classroom, have a food allergy.

“Most often when we think of food allergies, the more severe ones, we’re talking about IgE mediated or antibody associated reactions,” said Jeremy C. Screws, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Hattiesburg Clinic. “Those are the top eight are the main ones. So, that’s milk, egg, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish-fish and soy.”

Even if you know your child or someone in your family has a food allergy, there’s still another big concern- cross-contamination. Avoiding it is essential for people with severe food allergies.

“They may not think like, for example, if they’re chopping pecans on one surface and they just dump the pecan off, they may not realize that even the dust from that if a child has a significant food allergy to pecans or peanuts, then that surface needs to be wiped down,” Screws said.

That’s why several restaurants pay extra close attention when they know a customer has a food allergy.

“We definitely sanitize all of our cutting boards and surface areas as often as possible,” said Charles Southern, head chef & partner of Colludium Brewing. “We regularly change gloves especially when there’s a ticket with an allergy on it and then make sure to use different cooking utensils and different cooking surface areas whenever there’s an allergy present.”

If you’re throwing a holiday party at home this year, Southern has some tips for you to help keep everyone safe.

“One thing to keep out for whenever you’re cooking for your family that have allergens is definitely read the back of any of the ingredients,” Southern said. “Some things like Worcestershire, you wouldn’t know have shell-fish or seafood allergies on them, as well as make sure that you use different utensils whenever you’re cooking so there’s no cross-contamination in case there’s a peanut allergy or other allergies like that.”

Screws add it’s important to keep things like lactose intolerance, or the inability to digest the sugar in dairy products, and Celiac disease, a reaction to gluten, in mind when cooking for the holidays.

For more on holiday food safety, click here.

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