By Troy Thyselll
At some point, everyone will either have an allergy or encounter somebody with an allergy. Over 50 million Americans deal with allergies every year, and allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. Because so many people suffer from allergies, it is important to have an understanding of allergies and how they can be triggered to avoid potentially harming others or yourself.
Allergies can come in a variety of forms, such as food, drug, latex, and insect allergies. Depending on your environment, you may encounter or have to deal with certain allergies more than others, but one of the most difficult allergies to avoid are food allergies. Some food allergies, such as gluten or soy, are in a large variety of foods and can be hard to avoid. Depending on the severity of the allergy, reactions can be caused by consuming the food, coming in contact with the food, or even just the smell of the certain food can cause a reaction .
Although there is a large variety of foods that people can be allergic to, there are a few specific food allergies that are much more common than others. These include milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, shellfish, tree nuts, fish, and sesame. When having to deal with other peoples’ allergies, it is important to adapt to them, but make sure you are at least prepared for the most common allergies because they are the ones you will encounter the most.
Even with a lot of knowledge of the ingredients in meals that you would like to eat, it is important to consider the possibility of cross-contamination. When pertaining to food allergies, cross-contamination is the process of food allergens being transferred from one thing to another. Being aware of the types of cross-contamination is very important when handling food for somebody with food allergies. The three main types that can take place are food-to-food, equipment-to-food, and people-to-food.
In food-to-food cross-contamination, the food allergens of one food are transferred onto another food. For instance, if somebody had some peanuts and they came in contact with somebody’s meal by being placed near it, like on the same plate, then it is possible that the meal was contaminated with peanuts. If somebody with a peanut allergy were to eat it, they could have an allergic reaction.
“Food allergies are a serious issue that everybody should be aware of.”
One of the most common and least considered types of cross-contamination is equipment-to-food contamination. Equipment-to-food contamination can happen when using tools such as cutting boards, knives, storage containers, and even food manufacturing equipment. When a piece of equipment is used on food, some of the food will remain on the equipment. If that equipment is then used on another food, it can become contaminated by the first food. If somebody was allergic to the first food and ate the second one that was contaminated, they would have an allergic reaction. This is quite a serious form of cross-contamination because it can easily occur if people aren’t watching out for it.
The third type of cross-contamination is people-to-food. People-to-food cross-contamination is common and usually forgotten about, even though it can occur quite easily. If somebody was handling a food and didn’t properly clean themselves before handling another food, they could contaminate the new food. Cross-contamination doesn’t only occur through direct contact with the food, but if you ate the allergen and coughed on your hands then prepared some food, you could still contaminate the meal with the allergen.
Understanding cross-contamination and how it occurs is very important for people with food allergies because it can cause a serious allergic reaction if not avoided. No matter how much somebody may know about their allergy, it can always be useful to have help from a friend. There are a few things that people can do to help others with allergies. To start, they should talk to whoever has the allergy and gain an understanding of the allergy, their symptoms, and what they can and cannot eat. With that knowledge, it is possible to help them look for safe foods to try, cook your own safe food for them, make your house allergen-free, and potentially save their life if they have a serious allergic reaction.
Overall, there are many risks that come with having an allergy, especially a food allergy. Even if you don’t suffer from serious allergies, it is still very important to at least have the basic knowledge of allergies, so if you are ever near somebody with those allergies, you can act appropriately and minimize their risks of an allergic reaction. Preventing an allergic reaction could potentially save somebody’s life.