An open letter to supermarkets about allergy-free food

It's fantastic to see so many allergy-free foods making their way into supermarkets. #WeLOVEtheNoms #ThankYou.

However, with the increase in allergy-free foods, there's a need for supermarket owners and staff to quickly get up to speed on the dangers of cross-contamination.

What is cross-contamination?

When allergy-free food comes into contact with allergic contaminants during preparation, storage or serving we call this cross-contamination.

In essence, although the food may initially be 'allergy-free' if it comes into contact with allergic contaminants, it's no longer allergy-free and can make us allergic-folk really sick.

For example, french fries may be naturally gluten-free, but if you cook them in the same vat of oil that has been used to fry crumbed fish, the french fries are no longer gluten-free.

Cross-contamination is a real hassle for allergic-folk because even a small amount of our allergic nemeses can make us sick. And most people handling our allergy-free products are unaware of the dangers of cross-contamination

What's going on in supermarkets?

Strolling through local supermarkets, reading discussions online, and talking to my allergic-buddies I've noticed some major causes for concern.

Have you noticed how many gluten-free foods are stored right next to regular gluteny products? Quite a few!

This wouldn't be a problem if all packaging secured it's contents in a way that there wasn't leakage, but that's not the case.

Weetbix for example, should not be stored right next to Gluten-free Weetbix. Those boxes are notorious for leaking crumbs everywhere (those yummy crumbs are part of the appeal of eating weet-bix afterall). 

Gluten-free flour does not belong on the same shelf as regular flour for the same reason.

That's not to say that cross-contamination is definitely happening in supermarkets, but if foods aren't properly handled, there's a definite risk of cross-contamination occurring.

It's not just crumbs that are a problem

Anyone who walks down the baking goods aisle of a supermarket knows the distinctive smell of flour. It's in the air because flour bags are notorious for leaking, that's why we can smell it so easily. Mmmm ... the sweet smell of wheat flour (said no glutey ever).

Inhaling gluten can cause a reaction in some gluteys* so browsing the gluten-free products in the same aisle as the flour is not the best experience for those of us trying to maintain our health.

How to avoid cross-contamination in a supermarket

  • Move baking ingredients (especially flour) into a separate aisle to allergy-free foods.
  • Ensure all allergy-free foods are stored and displayed securely away from allergy-containing foods that could potentially contaminate product.
  • Train staff to ensure safe allergy-free food handling

All of us allergic-folk are incredibly grateful to see more and more products in store that we can eat. A few small changes could ensure we're safer and would be much appreciated.

Thanks so much guys!

Peace,

Gluteygirl

* Source: http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/Coping_with_Celiac_Disease/f/Inhaling-Airborne-Gluten.htm