Food allergies are on the rise and receiving an unprecedented amount of attention. According to the non-profit Food Allergy Research & Education, an estimated 15 million Americans suffer from a food allergy.

With cross-contact (this is different from cross-contamination; read up on the differences here) being the main cause for most allergic reactions, proper preparation is a key factor in safe guarding against a harmful guest experience.

Here are steps and tools you can incorporate into your kitchen to ensure allergen safety.

Cross-contact can be avoided with careful washing and sanitation of kitchen utensils and cutlery.   However, in the chaos of the dinner rush, the proper steps to prep tools for use with an allergen-free dish may not be possible. Incorporate purple-handled kitchen utensils, cutlery, and cutting boards to be used strictly for allergen safe meals. This reduces time, saves water and cuts out the possibility of cross-contact.

Milk, nuts, eggs and wheat are four of the most common food allergies. They are also the base ingredients for most pastries and baked goods. When making wheat or nut free cakes and cookies, use measuring cups and baking mats colored in purple marking them for allergen-free preparation.

Unlike with cross-contamination, allergens can’t be cooked away if there has been any cross-contact. When cooking dishes for guests with allergy restrictions, use cookware specifically for all allergen safe preparation. To keep cross-contact from happening, utilize purple-handled fry pans and thermometers for quick and easy identification.

Whether prepping or serving, it’s important to clearly identify which dishes are safe for consumption by people with allergies. Vollrath offers purple double-walled stainless steel bowls in a variety of shapes and sizes, giving you the option to use for mixing ingredients or serving buffet style allergen-free dishes.

When even the smallest contact with an allergen can cause a reaction, it’s imperative to have all allergen-safe ingredients stored in air-tight containers. Purple storage boxes and labels are an easy way to keep food separated and avoid cross-contact.

Allergen-free food preparation will continue to gain momentum as states begin to pass legislation requiring foodservice operators to provide allergen training for employees. Get ahead of the game with NRA’s ServSafe comprehensive allergen safety training.