Kitchen Cross Contamination: Who Cares?

Posted By Debbie on February 28, 2013

Who cares? I wish more restaurants did. Because I and other people care. I’m one of many people with serious food allergies. My main food allergy is fish. I can have shellfish. I can’t have fish fish. To the extent where when I get sushi (usually with shrimp), if the sushi chef cuts something before mine, I’ll get a tiny like 5% reaction just from what was on his knife.

My reaction is anaphylactic shock, so I really don’t want to mess with this. I want to have zero fish. A small reaction means my esophagus feels like it’s swelling, and I just have to live with that until it goes away.

Sushi Chefs: What Gives?

I think sushi chefs are my best example of restaurant cross contamination and nobody caring. No, I won’t even go into my story of the time I watched a sushi chef cut himself and try to serve me a roll with blood on it. I will just go for the every-day version of how they cut a zillion things with the same knife even though many of the things they cut are known allergens. Most people are allergic to shellfish but can have regular fish. They don’t even clean the knife or change knives for that!

Diners, Do You Care?

I once got my fish allergy at a NY diner after ordering an omelette with onions, tomatoes, and spinach. I know. You’re thinking, wow, that has tons of fish! What had happened was someone else at my table ordered salmon. I’m guessing they flipped the salmon and then flipped my omelette with the same tool. Sucked.

Fast Food, You’re Lazy

Lots of fast food places will toss their fried fish in the same oil/fryer as the french fries. So if I order nothing fishy but ask for french fries, at some places, I’ll get fishy fries. Restaurants are guilty of this too. I went to a well-known fish restaurant on the piers in San Francisco. I ordered their fried shrimp. I got a small allergy attack. They’re obviously just throwing everything in the fryer, which means all you people with shellfish allergies are running a risk there too.

Red Lobster, You’re Out Of Your Minds

I avoid Red Lobster for two reasons. One, it’s a bloody fish restaurant! Second, I perceive it to be low quality. But someone else in our party wanted to eat there, and there we were. I told the waiter that I had a fish allergy, and asked what CAN I eat. Salad, he told me. What about a burger? Nope, they throw that on the same grill they throw the fish.

WHAT? You serve people fishy-tasting beef burgers? In addition to shitty kitchen cross-contamination, I’d think that just makes the burger taste bad! There are reasons why I can’t think of any delicious dishes that mix beef and flounder!

Locally Owned Coffee Shop, You’re Phoning It In

I went to a well-known, local SF coffee chain and ordered my usual decaf latte with soy milk. I watched the woman pour regular milk into what seems to be her lone metal steaming thingy, realise I wanted soy, pour it BACK INTO THE CONTAINER, and then pour soy into THAT without washing it. Holy cats. That was so many cross-contaminations, my head was spinning.

I’ll now be going 2 blocks in the wrong direction to get Starbucks on days when I don’t make my coffee at home. My non-dairy thing is a preference and not an allergy, but holy cats, what if it were an allergy and I weren’t watching what she just did.

Starbucks Is Trying To Get It Right

I recently saw this hanging in a Starbucks for employees, and took a pic. Click to enlarge:


Thank you to Starbucks for including a few key things on this sign:

  • What people tend to be allergic to.
  • What symptoms or reactions to look for.
  • What to do if a customer has an allergic reaction. Don’t call for a manager. Call 911.
  • That cross contamination is serious. It is!
  • Examples of what they mean.

You’ll also notice Starbucks puts each beverage type in its own marked metal steaming thingy. I’ve never seen them pour the wrong thing into the wrong thing.

I wish more restaurants and kitchens gave a crap about all the allergies people have and how even small cross-contaminations can make people ill or crazy freaking ill.