Ice cream shops are known for cross-contact.
Ice cream shops are known for cross-contact.

Ice cream is a staple food of the summer. Whether you like it in a cone, bowl, or waffle, ice cream shops are a great spot to buy a cold, sweet treat. However, how safe are ice cream shops for food allergies?

Assuming you don’t have a dairy allergy (in which case ice cream is off limits), the main danger of eating at an ice cream shop with food allergies is the risk of cross-contact. Cross-contact occurs when an allergen is transferred from a food containing the allergen to a different food that normally does not contain the allergen. Even though only a minimal amount of the allergen may be transferred, it can still cause an allergic reaction. Despite the risk of cross-contact, people with allergies can still enjoy this delicious summer treat in shops. Here are some precautions we recommend. 


Cross-contact is very common in ice cream shops. One of the main sources of cross-contact is the scoopers. Workers often use the same scoopers for both safe and allergen-containing flavors. This can result in cross-contact between the different flavors. Think about it, the scoop travels from the chocolate to the peanut butter and back, leaving behind possible contaminants.

This is especially dangerous because although a flavor did not originally contain a certain allergen, thanks to cross-contact, it now likely does. Sometimes the workers might not wash scoopers in between scooping the different flavors. Or, even if they do wash it, it might not be thorough enough. Fortunately, some shops have separate scoopers for each flavor or will use a completely new scoop if you ask. To be even safer, ask the server to use a fresh tub of ice cream and gloves along with a clean scooper. 

Another possible source of cross-contact is toppings. Most shops place all of the toppings right next to each other, which can cause the toppings to fall into different containers and mix. If the toppings are self-serve, the danger of cross-contact is even higher. Customers will likely mix and match their toppings using the same spoons. You can either ask the server to use a fresh container from the back or avoid toppings entirely to minimize the risk of cross-contact. 

If you aren’t comfortable visiting an ice cream shop quite yet this summer, that is okay. Check out this recipe for some tasty, allergy-friendly popsicles at home!

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