Q: Susan – In about 4 weeks I will be meeting my future lovely daughter-in-law. I just discovered she has a serious dairy allergy and deals with it fine. But I am planning an engagement party and want to do a lot of the cooking and baking myself. I am learning a lot from your book about reading labels and see that I have to be careful not to use foods that “share equipment with milk products,” so I couldn’t help but wonder…does this mean I need to ditch all my own baking pans, mixing pans and such? Or is it okay as long as I wash thoroughly and am careful with the products I use? This may sound silly, but I am new to this, and the last thing I want to do is send my future “new daughter” to the hospital!
A: Alisa – This is actually an excellent question, and one I am sure will arise in many households as people entertain friends and family members throughout the holiday season. First, there are a couple of things to consider …
One is how sensitive is her food allergy and is it life-threatening? If her food allergy is not severe, general rinsing off may suffice. If it is moderate to severe, it is important to make sure the dishes, pots, and utensils you use are thoroughly washed. I would rinse them first to remove obvious residue, and then run them in the dishwasher for a full cycle. As long as your dishwasher thoroughly cleans (mine is on its last legs, so I wouldn’t trust it) and the heat setting on your hot water isn’t too cool, then a good spin should do. Some argue whether handwashing is enough, but most say that even with severe food allergies, a good sudsy wash with hot water should take care of any residue.
Though purchasing separate, dedicated pans and utensils is an option, most food allergy parents I have spoken with don’t keep separate kitchen equipment on hand. They simply give everything a thorough wash to avoid cross-contamination. This can be easier to control in a small space such as your kitchen than in large production runs in shared facilities and on shared equipment where manufacturers are dealing with a multitude of hard to clean spaces and issues.
For added protection, you can also line baking sheets and baking pans with fresh parchment paper or with a new silpat. This will not only provide another clean layer, but it will also make your baked goods much easier to remove!
Finally, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask your future daughter-in-law what she thinks on this issue. Odds are you aren’t the first person to have expressed this concern. She will likely have a response for you on what level of cleaning and equipment use she is comfortable with and what practices she deems as “safe” for her food allergy.
It is wonderful of you to be so considerate. She is obviously entering into a very caring family.
Alisa Fleming is the founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. In addition to her own dairy-free lifestyle, Alisa has experience in catering to the needs of various special diets, including gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, vegan, and multiple food allergies.