section 4: Reading Labels and Avoiding Cross Contamination
Reading labels are an important part of keeping you safe from allergens. Let's take a look at this label for dark chocolate. As you can see, on the very right there is an list of ingredients. All food manufacturers are now required to list the top allergen ingredients in plain English and not in chemical or derivative forms. If you are allergic to milk and soy, you could not eat this chocolate. Some companies write allergen advisory statements as seen below. Allergen advisory statements usually list if a food "may contain", "was made on equipment" or "made in a facility" with a highly allergenic food. This is not required by the FDA though so if you are ever unsure about a product being safe to eat, you can call the manufacturer. Some doctors say to avoid products that "may contain" your allergen. I think it is a good idea to avoid any food with an allergy advisory warning for your allergen. It is better to be safe than sorry!
This brings us to our next topic, cross contamination and food allergies. Cross contamination happens when a food containing your allergen touches safe food. For example, if you are allergic to milk and the chef makes you a hamburger on the same griddle that grilled cheese was made on a minute ago. If some of the grease from the grilled cheese has milk proteins in it and it gets on your hamburger, that is called cross contamination. To put it simply cross contamination happens when a safe food comes in contact with a non safe food and the proteins from the non safe food get on the safe food. In order to avoid cross contamination, it is important to be explicit with the chef if you eat out that all utensils must be clean. It is also important, if you are living with someone else and they cook with your allergens that anything used in preparing the food containing your allergen is thoroughly cleaned and "decontaminated".