It’s beginning to feel a lot like winter up here in Chicago. But even though the temperatures are dropping, the holiday spirit is increasing! I’m definitely ready to spend the days baking gluten-free cookies, drinking dairy-free hot chocolate, and spending time with my family. As it is with any holiday party, my family is great about making sure I have safe, allergy-friendly options to enjoy, and making sure food is prepared safely for everyone involved. It’s so important to communicate your needs to your family and friends when it comes to holiday meals and parties, and advocate for your health! Here are the helpful tips on cross-contact that we shared for Thanksgiving – they’re important to remember any time of year! Plus, be sure to download our helpful Menu Labels to help those with allergies navigate the menu with ease!
What is cross-contact?
According to FARE, cross-contact happens when one food comes into contact with another food, and the proteins (i.e. the allergenic components of the foods) mix. This is an issue for anyone with food allergies, and can cause a reaction.
Cross-contamination differs from cross-contact in that it usually refers to bacteria or viruses getting in food. The big difference is that cooking the food can remove the bacteria and prevent cross-contamination, but will NOT remove the proteins, and therefore doesn’t prevent cross-contact. This distinction is important to know and explain to your host or server when you’re eating in a new environment.
Here are some helpful tips for avoiding cross-contact at your next holiday meal!
- Use thoroughly cleaned or separate utensils and kitchen tools to prepare and serve allergy-friendly dishes. If you need to, bring your own tools so you know they are okay for you. (Side note – when I trained the dining employees at my university on food allergies, we use purple tools to designate them as allergy-friendly, so having a similar “label” might be helpful).
- Cook allergy-friendly foods first in order to ensure that the surfaces are clean and cross-contact doesn’t occur. Alternatively, cook these dishes at your own home and bring them to your host’s house so you can control the process. (It’s also good to bring food from home as a back-up!)
- Keep all foods covered and away from other foods that may splatter, and make sure each dish has its own serving utensil. Whenever we eat a holiday meal at my grandparents’ house, we set the Kathleen-friendly dishes away from any dishes that contain my allergens, often on a separate counter just to make sure there’s no spillage from other containers.
- Label foods so you know what they are and which ingredients they contain. We have some cute downloadable labels, and name cards that you can print and use at your next meal!
- If you or your host thinks they may have made a mistake during the food preparation, avoid that dish It’s better to be overly cautious if you’re not 100% sure. Additionally, allergens can’t be removed from a dish (i.e. removing croutons from a salad does not make it gluten-free) – make sure whoever is cooking is aware of this!
- Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water if you have handled an allergen!
- Scrub down all surfaces and sanitize all tools after the food preparation
Now that we’ve taken care of the tips & tricks, here are some of my favorite holiday dessert recipes – all including chocolate, of course! I hope you try them this holiday season!
Caramel Chocolate Trifle – Enjoy dairy-free pudding and our gluten-free cookies in this Caramel Chocolate Trifle, perfect for the holidays. The more layers the better!
Chocolate Dipped Cinnamon Shortbread – Savor the flavors of the holidays with these gluten-free Cinnamon Shortbread Sticks dipped in our vegan chocolate chips.
Hot Cocoa Cookies – Enjoy the rich, decadent taste of hot chocolate in the form of a gluten-free cookie! Drizzle with our vegan chocolate chips for extra fun.
Mint Chocolate Sugar Cookie Squares – Use our gluten-free cookies and vegan chocolate to make the perfect holiday treat.