Safe Cooking for Food Allergies

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on October 27, 2020

Always play it safe when you cook meals for someone with a food allergy. Follow some simple steps to make your kitchen a tasty, trouble-free zone.

How to Get Started

Shop carefully. When you buy packaged foods, read the labels to see if they have the allergy trigger in them. Packaged foods are required to state in the ingredients list, or as a separate “contains statement” the presence of milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans. If there is no “contains statement,” it is particularly important to carefully check the ingredients list for any allergens of concern.

Don't take chances. If the person you're cooking for has had a severe reaction to even traces of a food, you may want to keep it out of the house entirely.

Label your groceries. Mark foods as "safe" or "unsafe" before you store them. Write the two words using two different color pens as a visual reminder.

Organize your pantry and refrigerator. Use different shelves for safe and unsafe foods, and store everything in sealed containers.

Keep Clean

An important part of allergy-control is to wash your hands often. Before you start cooking, clean them with soap and warm water. Do it again between cooking with and without the problem food.

Don't use an antibacterial gel, because it may not remove some allergy triggers.

Take Precautions

Make sure you don't accidentally get an allergy trigger into the food you're preparing. It can sometimes slip in from the cooking equipment you use. Take these steps:

  • If you can, first make a meal for the person who's allergic, and then get it ready for others.
  • If possible, have separate sets of utensils and cookware for preparing foods with and without the allergy trigger.
  • If you need to use the same cooking tools, put those contaminated with allergens into the sink or dishwasher right after you use them. Teach your family not to use them again until they're washed.
  • In between fixing safe and problem foods, thoroughly clean counters and other surfaces where you prepare meals. For some things, like peanuts, you may need to use a spray cleaner or sanitizing wipe as well as dishwashing liquid.

Stovetop Safety

Some people with allergies can get a reaction from food proteins released into the air in vapor or steam during cooking. These are rare and usually mild. Make sure a sensitive person stays away from the kitchen during cooking and for 30 minutes after.

Allergy-Savvy Cleanup

Scrub the kitchen table and counters after you prepare and eat food. Your family members should also wash their hands before and after they eat.

WebMD Medical Reference



Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network: "Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the U.S."

Food Allergy Initiative: "Living with Food Allergies: at Home."

Kids with Food Allergies Foundation: "8 Tips for avoiding cross contamination."

KidsHealth: "Food Allergies."

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