After a series of changed plans, we finally ended up enjoying Thanksgiving in Southern California with family that had gathered from all over the world (truly a first and a very special time). One of my favorite things to do is to enjoy a visit to the Torrance Farmer’s Market and bring home my culinary treasures. As I was choosing fresh basil, I realized there were raw peanuts being cross contaminated with the vegetables via the stall employee’s hands! A true food allergy nightmare!
Thankfully, I saw the containers of peanuts, the employee sorting the peanuts and then immediately re-stacking the broccoli and other produce. I called my husband over and said we can’t buy the items we had just chosen, they could be contaminated with the dust from the peanuts. We both sat rather dumbfounded for a few minutes while we watched her sort peanuts and touch all sorts of produce.
Ironically, a woman walking by heard me telling my husband about the touching of peanuts and vegetables. She stopped and tossed in her two cents as well about the booth and then huffed off. I wasn’t sure if she was annoyed with the peanut issue or people just touching the produce though?!?! Nevertheless, this kind of cross contact situation became a real issue for us, not just here at the farmer’s market, but especially during the holidays when grocery stores and markets are bursting with nuts for holiday baking. Shopping with food allergies during the Holidays truly requires a pause and a plan.
Actually, a friend of mine has a similar situation in a grocery store with a manager touching and filling up a bin with peanuts and then moving on to touch other products in the store. The employee was less than thrilled with my friend and thankfully, upper management got involved and helped with the situation.
photo courtesy of grapeandgrainsync.comAddressing bins of open nuts has truly brought to mind that our food allergy community might consider educating our local grocery stores, markets and farmer’s market of this cross contamination risk. I have written a letter that I am sending out to my local grocery stores in hopes of raising awareness of stocking nuts and major allergen products and then touching other food items.
You are welcome to down load My Dear Grocery Manager letter and adapt it for your own personal purposes, using your stories, names, etc.. My lesson learned is that produce is simply not immune from food allergy cross contact issues as well. Although, this farmer’s market trip was not a complete bust, as I found other veggie only vendors and a farmer who only grew dates. I am happy to report that I enjoyed the drive home munching on farm fresh dates!
Again, please consider sharing nut, produce and other food stuff food allergy cross contact information with grocers or farmers who sell nuts in bins with other non-nut items. These kind of cross contact issues can pose a real problem for peanut or tree nut allergic customers.