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

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