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Cleaning Methods

Cleaning tables and other surfaces to effectively remove food allergens can make schools, classrooms and cafeterias safer for children with food allergies.

Schools, early childhood education (ECE) programs and communities play an important role in protecting children with food allergies. One way is by promoting a safe physical environment that minimizes their exposure to potential allergens.

State and local health regulations generally require school districts, schools and ECE programs to follow cleaning and sanitizing practices. These practices can help prevent the unintentional transfer of residue or trace amount of an allergic food into another food.

Here are some way to reduce this cross-contact:

  • Clean and sanitize with soap and water or all-purpose cleaning agents and sanitizers that meet state and local food safety regulations.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains) within the school and on school buses.
  • Treat all surfaces that come into contact with food in kitchens, classrooms and other locations where food is prepared or eaten.
  • Clean and sanitize food preparation equipment, such as food slicers, and utensils before and after use.
  • Clean and sanitize trays and baking sheets after each use. Oils can seep through wax paper or other liners and cause cross-contact.
  • Use appropriate handwashing procedures that emphasize the use of soap and water. Plain water and hand sanitizers are not effective in removing food allergens.

    One study found that liquid soap, bar soap and commercial wipes were very effective at removing peanut allergens from hands. Plain water and antibacterial hand sanitizer left detectable levels of peanut allergen on 3 out of 12 and 6 out of 12 hands, respectively.

Download a PDF resource with this information in English or Spanish.

Distribution of peanut allergen in the environment. Perry TT, Conover-Walker MK, Pomes A, Chapman MD, Wood RA. J.Clin Immunol, Vol. 113, No. 5. Retrieved from http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(04)01067-X/fulltext

Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in School. P.38. Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/foodallergies/pdf/13_243135_A_Food_Allergy_Web_508.pdf

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