I Accidentally Brought Home a Peanut
I have worked at bakery with nuts for just over ten months now and I love it. Being at work is a place where I feel safe and there is a nice balance between customer service and cleaning the kitchen. I know where all the nuts are located, I wash my hands a lot and I wear gloves when needed. As a person allergic to nuts I feel safe working in this kitchen with nuts.
At work I have to handle nuts sometimes, but the scariest thing that I have ever done actually happened at home. I accidentally brought home a peanut in my apron pocket. It must have fallen off one of our products into my pocket and I did not know it was there. So when I got home and I emptied out my pockets there was suddenly a peanut in the palm of my hand. I quickly threw it away and washed my hands.
I do not seem to be all that sensitive to nuts. I think I would actually have to eat it to have a full on allergic reaction. I think my allergist would say differently though since all my blood and skin tests for peanuts have been "off the charts" as we say. All I know is I am over one hundred percent allergic to peanuts.
In my house kitchen and in the kitchen at work, similar items are organized together. Like for example at home all the vegetables are kept in one drawer together in the fridge. The same is at work, all the nuts are shelved together on one shelf in the kitchen. I can only assume that many kitchens keep similar items together and would not have them spread apart across the entire kitchen. All the nuts are also kept in closed containers. Maybe a not allergic person would know that nuts are stored on the same shelf together in closed containers, but I didn't know that at first and I am thankful that is how nuts are kept.
There are some products with nuts in them, but I cannot touch them. In fact no one can touch them, if you directly touch food, it cannot be sold. I really like this rule and therefore I have to use wax paper or gloves when picking up any food not already in a wrapper. This way I know I am not directly touching my allergen and my germs are not on anyone's food. This goes for all food, someone should not ever be touching your food with their bare hands.
Sometimes I have to add finishing touches to a product and often it involves handling nuts. I have a whole method to be safe from the nuts. First I wash my hands. Then I put on gloves. I open the container. Add the nuts to the product, put the product down on the tray it belongs to. Then when I am finished I close the container and put the container back. Then I take off the gloves, throw them away and wash my hands. If there are other products to finish without nuts I usually do those first with a different pair of gloves.
I try really hard to avoid creating cross contact at work. Cross contact is when a food that is an allergen comes in contact with another food and their proteins mix. So then each food contains a tiny bit of the other food and usually the cross contact cannot be seen on the food. Cross contact happens unknowingly everywhere all the time and that is what makes it so dangerous. For example using the same utensil to serve an allergen and a safe food creates cross contact and could lead to an allergic reaction.
That is why when selling the products to guests I can help steer them in a safer direction if they are willing to take the chance of cross contact. With nuts in the kitchen, there is always a chance of cross contact. I tell them that I am allergic to nuts, there is always a chance of cross contact, and that I eat some of the products we sell. Then I help them pick out products that are less likely to come in cross contact with nuts.
I really like my job and I look forward to going to work each week. I hope this post gives you an idea of what it is like for me to work with nuts and even though it can be dangerous for me I wouldn't change it for the world.
Also please note that the facts about cross contact are from FARE, like the other facts from my earlier blog post Food Allergies 101.