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Food Allergy Resources

Items at the Food Market That Are Risky for a Child with Food Allergies

October 2005

The following items in your grocery market have a high risk of cross contamination with allergenic foods:

  • Nuts: If your child is allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, it is usually best to avoid all nuts. Most peanuts and tree nuts are processed on shared equipment, and there is a very large risk of cross-contamination.

  • Chocolate Candies: If your child is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, or dairy products, be aware that most chocolate candies are produced on machinery that also processes nuts and dairy products. Unless you have contacted the productís manufacturer and verified that the product is safe for your child, it is best to avoid chocolate candies altogether.

  • Deli Counters: Foods purchased at a deli counter have a particularly high risk of cross-contamination. Most delis use the same slicer for both meats and cheeses, making the meat unsafe for a milk-allergic individual (and vice-versa!). The prepared foods (such as egg-based potato salad, wheat-based pasta salads, and dishes containing nuts) may be dished up using a common utensil, so all of these dishes are unlikely to be safe as well.

  • Salad Bars: There is a high risk of cross-contamination at self-service salad bars, including those found in many grocery stores. Even if each salad item has its own serving utensil, customers often contaminate items by using a different itemís utensil anyway. In addition, food pieces may fall from one bin into another while customers are serving themselves. For example, pieces of cheese may fall into the tomato bin, pasta may mix with the potato salad, and peanuts might end up in the dressing. I recommend that you avoid salad bars.

  • Bulk Items: Due to the very high chance of cross-contamination of food items, avoid all foods sold in bulk from barrels or other containers Ė i.e., the type of situation where you scoop up the desired quantity of unpackaged food (such as flour or oats or granola) and place it in a bag for purchase.

  • Fresh Fish Counter: There is a high risk of cross-contamination between the various fresh fish and shell fish products available at the grocery storeís fresh fish counter (where the various offerings are kept on display on ice and then wrapped up when purchased). If your child is allergic to any variety of fish or shell fish it is best to avoid all fish and shell fish that are sold in this way.

  • Nuts in the Produce Section: Watch out for open bins of nuts in the produce department. This can lead to nuts, nut particles, and nut "dust" contaminating everything around it. If this is the situation at your local store, talk to the store manager and see if he or she will agree to make some changes. If necessary, you may want to emphasize the risk that this poses for a segment of their customers, and make inferences to the legal liability that this implies for the store.

Copyright (c) 2004, Linda Marienhoff Coss, All rights reserved.

Excerpted with permission from "How to Manage Your Child's Life-Threatening Food Allergies: Practical Tips for Everyday Life" by Linda Marienhoff Coss.

More information about this book can be found in KFA's Allergy Book Shop.

Reviewed by KFA Medical Advisory Team August 2005

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Page last updated 7/29/2012

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