Cross-Contact vs. Cross-Contamination
Uggg. I wish I could turn this side of my brain off, but I can’t. These two terms have been spinning in my head for the better part of this week now. I have wanted so badly to define them and talk about them, and it seems like this is the best place for that. So, cozy up. Here’s what’s on my mind. What a sexy Saturday night this is! Atleast HBO is on. And I have ice cream. mmmmmm.
What is cross-contact?
Cross-contact happens when one food comes into contact with another food and their proteins mix. As a result, each food then contains small amounts of the other food. These amounts are so small that they usually can’t be seen. Even this tiny amount of food protein has caused reactions in people with food allergies! The term “cross-contact” is fairly new. Some people may call this “cross-contamination.”
Types of cross-contact:
Direct: Allergen was applied then removed.
- Peeling cheese off a cheeseburger to make it a hamburger
- Removing shrimp from a salad
- Scraping peanut butter off a piece of bread and using it to make a different sandwich
Indirect: Cross-Contact (allergen was not directly applied)
- Using the same spatula that flipped a cheeseburger to flip a hamburger
- Not washing hands after handling shrimp before making the next salad
- Wiping off—not properly cleaning—a knife used to spread peanut butter before using it to spread jelly
Why don’t we use the term cross-contamination?
Cross-contamination usually refers to bacteria or viruses that get on food and make it unsafe to eat. In cross-contamination, cooking the food will lower the chance of a person getting sick. This is not the same with food allergies and cross-contact. Cooking does not remove an allergen from a food! The only way to stop you from having a reaction is to avoid the food and carefully clean anything that came in contact with it using soap and water.
How to stop cross-contact?
- Your cutting boards + never use a wooden cutting board
- Wash your hands, especially if recently handling the allergen
- Wash your sink out
- (SPLASH ZONES!!! – if you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then wash the peanut butter knife in your sink, your sink now contains peanut protein. If you’re thinking about serving fresh fruit for snack time to share, and rinse your fruit in this sink, your fruit has now been exposed to the peanut protein unless you wash your sink out first. Everything must be sanitized after the allergen has been present.
- Clean all surfaces + cooking utensils
How to clean:
Use hot, soapy water with a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe kitchen surfaces and counters. Wash cloths used for cleaning in the hot cycle of your washing machine often (when was the last time you did that?). You can sanitize sponges with a quick zap in the microwave or dishwasher, but you should still replace them often since they harbor bacteria.
Also, scrub down counters and dishes every time you prep a food and before moving on to the next item. One high-power solution is a mix of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of water. Use that to sanitize surfaces and utensils.
—-all of this information is from the CDC + Foodnetwork.com + FoodAllergy.com (FARE)
So, as you can see, it’s pretty easy for cross contact to happen. There are many places for this to occur. This is why we have to be vigilant and why us allergy parents can seem crazy when we’re figuring out what to serve our kids!
Whew. Well, glad that’s unloaded and off my brain. Time to go snuggle my little bunny. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have something less serious and more delicious to write about.