With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

21 April 2009

Since When Does Heat "Kill" Allergens?!!

Anyone who knows me well or even visits Food Allergy Buzz on a regular basis probably knows that I spend a good amount of time each day reading food allergy related news. I have many Google Alerts, sometimes more than I can reasonably read in a day. Early Tuesday morning, I came across this article--Food allergies: Tips for Ordering Meals Out--which contained very disturbing misinformation about cross-contamination from a restaurant manager. He was being cited as an expert of sorts on eating out with food allergies. The article also mentioned food allergy mom, author, and advocate, Linda Coss--she was not interviewed for the article, but information from one of her press releases was used in the article. Linda has followed up with the newspaper to correct and clarify the information in the article.

Here is what I found troubling (emphasis added):

"Linda Coss, the author of “How to Manage Your Child’s Life-Threatening Food Allergies: Practical Tips For Everyday Life,” reminds us it’s not only what the ingredients are, but what could that dish come in contact with on the grill, the deep fryer or the preparation station.

Pruyn agrees with Coss in respect to asking what’s in the food.

For example, at Maynards he said a server could easily go back in the kitchen and check every single ingredient used in the dish, including spices.

However, Pruyn said when it comes to cross contamination, customers shouldn’t worry too much, unless the food is raw.

For example, if a person comes in allergic to seafood and wants to order a hamburger, he or she doesn’t need to worry about the two being cooked on the same grill.

“The heat that is used is burning everything up,” he said, adding the same is true for the deep fried shrimp and chicken fingers."

Just to clarify, ladies and gents, food allergens cannot be removed by heat! It's not like cooking meat-- allergens don't vanish and aren't "killed" once the food reaches a certain temperature. Soap and water is what removes allergen. That's right, plain old soap and water.


alison - surefoodsliving.com said...

I have been asked that about gluten too -- "isn't it okay if it's cooked?" Hmmm... so there's no gluten in bread then. Or anything really, since nobody eats raw gluten! It's funny (not really).

Unknown said...

I posted a similiar experience that I had a year ago at Ultimate Burger in London at www.FoodAllergiesToGo.com/london. Thanks for your efforts to clarify the misinformation.

Karen said...

Sabrina Shannon died from eatting fries, that where cross contaminated in a frier with milk.

She was misinformed about what was previously cooked in the frier.

Sadly her Epi pen was in her school locker at the time.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Alison, Ann and Karen for your comments. It's pretty alarming that this restaurant manager is so uninformed. I am contemplating a call to the local health dept there because some education is clearly needed!

Unknown said...

I wonder if some of this is coming from people who claim to have an egg allergy, but can eat small amounts egg in baked goods. There is just mis-information out there that can be dangerous.

I think a call to the local health dept. may be a good idea. Thank for getting this issue out there so people can make comments and correct the wrong messages.

ThreePts said...

A big question is why food allergies and cross contamination is not discussed when you go for your food handlers card. This just seems like common sense.

Lissa said...

Good grief! These are the same people that think we parents are attention-seeking drama queens when we insist on safe practices to protect our kids. Good eye on this one, let's hope the paper prints a retraction and no one gets hurt from reading (and believing) this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

A restaurant chain employee once told me not to worry about allergens remaining on the food preparation surface because they used a good disinfectant each time. As mentioned, a food protein is not a virus to be killed. My other concern is if restaurants think that disinfecting is the key, I hate to think my food is coming into contact with who knows what chemical disinfectant.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments, Food Allergy Asst, Three Pts, Lissa and Anonymous. You all bring up very salient points. I did leave a message for the restaurant inspection folks in Minnesota but have not heard back. If they don't require training on avoiding x-contam., they need to start pronto!

Marketing Mama said...

How scary. I live not too far from this community. I just wrote an e-mail to the journalist via the web site and asked her to remove that quote, as it is dangerously inaccurate. I'm also going to try to track down that chef. Obviously his heart is in the right place, but he has some misinformation. Thanks for sharing.

Lise said...

This woman is a real danger for allergic people.

Jenny said...

This topic was brought up by one of the speakers at the recent FAAN conference.

I am increasingly thinking that carrying a "chef card" when you go to a restaurant is a great idea. You can always make your own--with a notation that heat doesn't "kill" food allergens.

I do think that most reputable chefs understand cross-contact, so again, we need to always go with our "gut" when dining out. If someone seems clueless, get the heck out of there!

Unknown said...

I agree. More education is needed! There are plenty of good chefs who do understand, but we need to help the others along. We all know about the food allergy learning curve. It's not exactly intuitive. But it is so very dangerous when people--especially restaurants--don't understand it! It is actually a matter of life and death.

zia said...

I believe his is confusing bacteria with allergens. What he described is common practice for avoiding cross contamination of pathogens, not allergens. He needs to get his '-gens' straight! lol