If you have an allergy then you might be concerned about eating out. As someone who is gluten free, eating out can be a lot of extra trouble. A lot of restaurants will cater for gluten free now, but usually with very limited options – and I’ve been glutened more than once even after informing them of an allergy. Most take outs and more casual dining places cannot offer anything for those with a gluten allergy. For those with other allergies such as dairy, nuts or specific ingredients, it can be very risky to eat something prepared in someone else’s kitchen. In some extreme cases, this can be life or death. Then there’s the fact that no one knows the state of the kitchen it is cooked in, which might be a concern for some. So the question I’m posing today is should schools and charity bake sales ban home-made goods or not and why?
My firm answer is NO.
But I’ve asked other bloggers what they think.
Food Hygiene Concerns
“One person’s spotlessly clean kitchen is another person’s food poisoning death trap,” says Protecting’s Mark Hall in a press release.
But many takeaways operating at a 1 star hygiene rating are still allowed to continue trading. That means cross contamination, mouldy food, rat droppings and more which is probably far worse than you find in the average household. It takes a LOT to get a commercial kitchen shut down.
“We’ve also heard of school cake sales where over-enthusiastic young members of the home economics class claim to have spat in the mix before slapping it into the oven. Urban myth? Who knows?” Mark Hall continues.
It probably isn’t an urban myth, because kids can be pretty gross and also malicious at times, let’s face it, someone out there would find this funny. But cakes at charity sales and school bakes are not being made by children unaccompanied – they’re being made and brought in by their parents who aren’t exactly the demographic to be pranking people. And let’s face it, if someone wants to be gross and contaminate your food in a takeaway or restaurant you’ll have no clue about it there either. A food hygiene certificate doesn’t protect anyone from malicious workers or idiots, so I’m going to throw this complaint out the window.
“I always make mine because I would know exactly what went into them, I find shop ones could have traces of nut which would cause bigger problems than the state of someone’s kitchen.” – Sarah from Sarah Lou Writes
There is very little food hygiene risk in cake baking. Eggs in the UK are very safe, and a cake safely cooks them very quickly. Otherwise we’re talking about butter, sugar, flour and flavourings, none of which are common problem ingredients when it comes to serious hygiene or health issues.
Food Hygiene Tips if you’re Baking
- Forego the bake if you’re feeling unwell. That means if you’ve had any vomiting or diarrhea in the last 48 hours, or if you have a cough or are showing symptoms of a cold or the flu, put your feet up and have a cup of tea, then pick up a cake in the supermarket.
- Exercise good hygiene practices – warm water, plenty of soap, wash utensils and worktops thoroughly.
- Keep pets away from the baking area – which you probably do already!
- Always supervise helping children, as well all know kids hygiene can be a bit suspect at the best of times.
Basically, use some common sense!
Food Hygiene Tips if you’re Buying
There’s not a lot you can do if buying other than trust your source. I’d recommend steering clear if you see someone sneeze all over the top of it or there’s a big clump of dog hair in the middle. Otherwise you’re probably good to chow down.
Now this is something that I think is a very valid concern. I’m currently eating gluten free for medical reasons and if it’s not labelled gluten free, I won’t buy it, and sometimes even a label is simply not enough. I understand it’s an eat at your own risk sort of thing – and that’s fine for me because I can get over eating gluten without needing to go to the doctor. Other people have intolerance’s to dairy or more serious allergies to things like nuts. In some cases, it can be life or death if eating out that something is labelled correctly.
“Our school does allow home baking for fairs etc, but all contributions MUST come with a list of ingredients, otherwise they won’t be accepted. The school also has a strict ‘no nuts’ policy, including tree nuts, ground nuts, and sesame.” – Jenni from The Bear & The Fox
If you’re making a cake, allergy baking and food labelling
- Ask the school or organization if there are any rules regarding allergens. Some will outright say no nuts to be used for example.
- Make sure the cake has a full label including all the ingredients.
- Ensure that you’re aware of cross contamination.
- In an ideal situation you’ll not use those allergens at all anywhere in the kitchen, especially allergens which can cause an anaphalactic reaction. Be very strict about washing out your mixer, bowls, pans and utensils between making cakes.
- If the kitchen has been used for other cakes, put it on the label. “Made in a kitchen containing gluten, eggs, nuts.” It just makes it extra clear so people can decide whether to risk any chance of cross contamination.
If you’re buying a cake and have an allergy
- Double check the ingredients.
- Double check with the person selling if they made the cake and could confirm. It’s easy for things to get mislabeled or people to give out incorrect information.
- Bear in mind that cross contamination is easily done. Was the cake made in a kitchen with the allergen? Has it been stored in the same location as the allergen? Are the servers using separate knives to cut them and is there any chance those could have been mixed up? All too often I’ve seen something advertised as gluten free and then seen it cut with a knife that was used to cut another cake. It’s not malicious in any way, but people who don’t have experience with allergies just don’t think about cross contamination sometimes.
- If you have a serious allergy where a mistake could be life threatening, then I wouldn’t eat anything at a bake sale. If my children had a serious allergy and were attending, I’d make the cake myself and be able to be confident that they had something they could eat. At the very least I feel very confident making gluten-free for myself and my family, so I’d think I’m quite a good person to make it for other people as I’m knowledgeable and extremely careful.
“I can’t eat dairy and neither can two of my children. I am happy for homemade cakes to be brought in, but I wouldn’t eat them. There is a risk of cross contamination in loads of products (bought and homemade) so if you have an allergy I don’t think it’s worth it. (There are plenty more ways the school gets my money anyway).” Kate from Counting to Ten.
“I bake dairy free cakes for my daughter’s preschool because of her allergies so that when they have cake sales etc she can have something. I can understand the concern with regards to allergies but if parents label their foods, and children with severe allergies are provided with something risk free I think it should be allowed – schools have had such severe funding cuts that they really rely on fundraisers and cake sales are usually the most popular for bringing in the money!” – Sarah from Arthur Wears.
“I usually bake them and do a plain fairy cake or sponge. Some teachers or parents will do a selection of allergy free, gluten free cakes and these are labelled up to state exactly what they are. All the cakes have to be covered so there isn’t a risk of cross-contamination so I think the necessary steps are taken at our school.” Emma from Emma Reed.
“Providing a full list of ingredients are provided and if the school is nut free then this is adhered to then there should not be a problem. It’s a sad state of affairs if we get to the point parents can’t be trusted to bake cakes at home for fears of allergens and food hygiene!” – Fran from Back with a Bump.
Is the Solution to these “problems” buying shop bought cakes?
Protecting‘s solution to the problem is to ban home-made cakes and stick to shop bought. “Everybody should buy a cake, bring it to the cake sale in its original packaging complete with allergy advice and ingredients list, and everybody knows what they’re buying.” But what do you think about that?
“If you don’t want to buy them – then don’t! It seems like the world wants to take away everyone’s right to choose.” Beth from Twindelermo.
Well said, Beth! I agree.
Other Benefits of Home Baked Goods at sales
Some might advocate that it’s simpler to do away with the bake sale, but not me. I think there are some serious benefits to home booked goods. I think baking together brings the family together and teaches children important life skills. A bake sale is a good excuse for the family to get together, make and decorate a cake. Some of my best memories of my grandmother are baking cakes with her, and I credit her for my reasonable baking skills today. You can also work on different recipes together and formulate, perfect and pass recipes down.
“That sounds like health and safety gone mad. Handmade cakes are lovely and it’s a treat to have something a bit different when out and about at fetes and cake sales. It’s nice to see baking – and it’d be a shame to lose out on that skill and having an excuse to make things ourselves.” Emma from Happy Family Hub.
Baking a cake is ultimately a lot cheaper than buying one in a supermarket. Not everyone can get to a supermarket to buy a fresh cake, but having cake making ingredients in the cupboard is quite common – you can buy a big bag of flour and sugar and they last a long time. Cake baking is much more affordable than cake buying, allowing people on lower incomes to join in just as much. And let’s face it, if we all had to go out and buy a fresh cake from the supermarket on the day of a bake sale, there would be less participants – and that means less money for school fundraisers and charities.
“At my children’s school they hold bake sales for various charities and of course the PTA. I used to chair our PTA and it is a income that it needs as bake sales do well. Our parents are great at labelling and there was children who had allergies etc. There parents tend to bake buns/cakes that they could eat too. I think it’s ridiculous to only allow shop bought at school bake sales as I think personally it would put a lot of people off donating having to spend the extra.” Jessica from Mrs Hible.
“With schools struggling for funding as it is I just think it would be such a shame to take away the little ways they are able to make money for their classrooms. I have to admit that if it was all shop brought cakes my kids probably wouldn’t be interested as I could just grab a pack in my shopping etc!” – Jess from Tantrums to Smiles
“There is nothing nicer to see than a cake sale stand with everyone’s take on a home made cake, my son gets so excited and I think I it gives a lovely nostalgic feel, let alone getting kids interested in baking.” Emma from Ready Freddie Go
“It seems a shame to ban something that has happened for years I personally always buy to take in but that’s because i’m a god awful baker and i wouldn’t wish my baking upon my enemy’s.” Lisa from The Family Ticket.
“This sounds ridiculous to me, our school is massively into cake sales to raise money and expect every parent to take part whether they bake them or buy them. I buy them because I’m rubbish at baking, but it’s always the homemade ones that the kids want.” Helen from Twins, Tantrums and Cold Coffee.
Finally, I feel in the modern world it’s all too easy to be distant, there’s no always a feel of community. Whether you’re taking part in a charity bake sale, a church bake sale or something with the school, being part of that is being part of the community. You’re giving your time and your skill, and there’s something much more deeply connective about that if you’ve actually baked the cake yourself rather than just bought it off a supermarket shelf. I’m also a big fan of preserving and using the skills we have rather than paying big corporations to mass produce, so if you are going to buy a cake, supporting a local cake maker or bakery would be a good way to keep it in the community.
Attending bake sales and school events is a great way to socialise and meet new people, both for the adults and the children. Making new friends as an adult is really hard (hope it’s not just me who feels that way) and things like this bring us together for a good cause so I hope that they continue to thrive in a healthy, happy way that fits the needs of as many as possible.
But the fact is, there CAN be problems and it does need to be taken seriously
Unfortunately for those with serious allergies, taking part in events like this may be more difficult, and some people do feel that bake sales shouldn’t include home baked cakes. I definitely empathise with children who feel left out or excluded, or parents who have additional worries of allergy management at school.
“To be honest, having a child with an egg allergy and a school that’s WAY too cake-happy, I’m kind of on the opposite side of the fence here. We’ve had countless problems with school ‘accidentally’ giving her cakes, pancakes etc despite being clearly told multiple times that she can’t have them. I don’t think it should be banned outright because that’s not fair on the majority, but there needs to be better provision and understanding for the children who end up being left out of things like this through no fault of their own.” Alex from Actual AR.
“I used to run the charity events team at a well known national retailer and bake sales were an awful challenge. With the risk of cross-contamination, allergic reactions, and many more issues it isn’t worth the potential damage. Cakes that are sold in stores are made under very strict conditions and that can never be replicated in a person’s home, nor can the school accept responsibility for the conditions of that person’s home. It sounds a bit ‘bah humbug’, but it is sensible.” Amy Downes.
Definitely food for thought. I’m looking forward to making cakes for cake sales in the future, but being allergy aware is something that’s very high on my list.
So what do you think? Should home made cakes at bake sales like school events and charity events be banned? Should people bring store bought goods instead? If you have any allergies how do you feel about baking or buying home-made cakes?