Step 1: Allergen-free ingredients
In Canada, packaged foods are required to list all their ingredients on the label. Reading that ingredient list can help you avoid products that contain your allergen. Some food companies also display “may contain traces of” statements for certain allergens. This is voluntary but becoming more common.
Read food labels and ingredient lists every time you shop, even if you have bought a product before. Ingredients may change without notice. If you have more questions about a particular packaged food, call the manufacturer. They will have the most up-to-date information about possible allergens.
When you are shopping, carry a handy list of the alternative names of your food allergen. For example, if you are allergic to milk, you have to avoid ingredients such as whey and casein. If eggs are your allergen, you need to avoid albumin. Anaphylaxis Canada sells pocket-size Allergen Information Cards for $1 each (www.anaphylaxis.ca). Cards are available for people with allergies to eggs, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, shellfish, soy, sesame and wheat.
Step 2: Safe packaging
Just to be safe, avoid buying ingredients from bulk bins. They may have come into contact with your allergen by mistake – say, if someone uses a scoop from a neighbouring bin, or the bin currently housing prunes previously stored peanuts.
Use only ingredients that are packaged and sealed. That way, you get the manufacturer’s guarantee that they have not come into contact with your allergen.
Step 3: Label your kitchen
If you or a family member has food allergies, post a list of the offending allergens on your fridge. This way, everyone from babysitters to visitors will know which foods to avoid. If you have severe allergies, you should also post emergency phone numbers and procedures for managing a reaction.
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For some people, even a trace amount of an offending food can cause an allergic reaction. Clearly label all ingredients in your pantry that are specifically used for allergen-free cooking and baking. This will remind family members that certain foods cannot be mixed and help prevent possible cross-contamination.
Hot soapy water is usually enough to break down allergens on surfaces, but some bakeware can hold on to allergen residue. To reduce the risk of ingesting hidden allergens in your baked goods, invest in cookware such as pans, measuring cups, bowls and spoons that you’ll only use for allergen-free baking.
Starting with safe ingredients and finishing in a safe kitchen will help you bake allergy-free cookie and bars that you can enjoy with confidence.
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