A couple of things that I previously thought were not issues ended up being issues I needed to handle in order to keep from being hit with symptoms during the day at work. The two things were the liquid soap and my lunch cooler.
The Liquid Soap and Dispenser
When we moved to our new office location, there was no soap dispenser at the sink like we had at our previous location. There was no soap at all. After our first day, I picked up a liquid soap dispenser and a refill to keep at the sink. At some point, the soap in the dispenser got low, so someone refilled it when he/she was at the sink. At this time, I was dealing with other stuff, so I really didn’t know if the soap was causing problems or not. I did suspect it and stopped using it for several days. I walked outside of our office area to the bathroom down the hall to wash my hands and used paper towels to touch door handles and my ID card so I could get back to my office. Doing this was painful because I had to wash more than once while getting things ready to eat. As soon as I was able to pick out other causes of issues, I went back to using the soap dispenser in our office area as soon as I could. At that time, I noticed no issues. However, the following week, I began to notice more symptoms. One day, I left my lunchbox at home, so I went to a nearby grocery store and purchased a couple of Amy’s entrees to eat for breakfast and lunch. I had a Light My Fire meal kit in my office, so I used the spoon/fork in it to eat my entrees. I washed it in the sink with the liquid soap from the refillable dispenser. I didn’t feel well after both of those meals. Symptoms continued to worsen, and I finally took some Benadryl and Zantac later that afternoon. I felt better soon after taking those. I decided that the soap dispenser may very well be the culprit. All I could figure is that someone mishandled the pump when he/she was refilling the dispenser. I could rule out my lunch box causing problems because I had left it at home that day and had eaten microwaveable entrees at both meals, which almost never give me problems. I’ve had those same entrees on other occasions, and they did not give me problems at those times. I knew I absolutely did not want to continue going to the hall bathroom to wash my hands and use paper towels to get back to my office. I decided to buy my own soap dispenser, which I labelled with my initials and with the message “DO NOT REFILL!”. So far, this has worked wonderfully, and I’ve not had any further issues with the soap.
My Lunch Box
Since removing gluten from my diet, I started carrying a hard-sided cooler to work for my meals because it’s easy to clean. There were no cracks or crevices for food residue to hide. At first, I just wiped it down with disposable wipes, but that ended up not being enough to remove all the residue. I then started washing it out with dish soap, hot water, and a paper towel. I did this for a year, thinking it was working fine. After figuring out the issue with the soap, I believe I started having more issues, so I began to suspect that maybe I wasn’t getting all the residue out of my lunch box washing it this way either. I tried using crock pot liners in my lunch box, but those didn’t work at all. They just crowded the space inside the lunch box and made it harder to pack and unpack. I decided to look into getting paper lunch sacks. I thought I could wash the plastic package, open it, remove the lunch bags, and put them into a plastic container for safe-keeping and to prevent them from getting wheat/gluten residue on them. However, I found out, while looking at the packages at the store, that the packaging had holes in it. That idea was now out. My next idea was to go onto Amazon and look for the least expensive machine-washable lunch totes I could find and order a set of ten, two for each meal at work, five days a week. I would wash the totes at the end of the work week and put them away in a storage container for use the next week. I found some and spent about eighty dollars on the totes. The first week using them was great. I noticed I was feeling pretty good that week. The lunch boxes at that time were completely clean since they had not yet been used, and I had found a way to remove foods safely. I would hold the lunch tote between my right elbow and right side, to keep my right hand free and clean, while using my left hand to unzip the zipper. I would then place the lunch tote on the desk and hold it sideways with my left hand on one side of the handle so that it would open wide enough for me to remove the contents with my right hand without having the contents touch contaminated areas. However, the following week, I began having symptoms again. I realized that because the lunch totes were put into the washing machine flat that the insides were probably not getting completely washed. I decided to start turning them inside-out to get the insides washed clean. They did not lie completely flat in the washing machine turned inside-out, so I thought that both the outside and inside would get clean this way. I was wrong. I believe handling the outside of the lunch totes and then touching the items to go into them began causing problems. At the end of that week, I started running the lunch totes through the washing machine twice, once inside-out and once outside-out. I also washed the storage container in the dishwasher to remove any residue from the inside of it. So far, since that time, using the totes and cleaning them this way has been working well. Another alternative that may work if I need to go that route is just to use containers for as much of my food for work as possible and just carry them in plastic bags. What I could not carry in containers I could just wash at the sink at work to remove any residue before consuming the contents. I would still need to be very careful handling the containers because of the residue on the outside. There was one day that I had problems because I handled something carelessly, but otherwise that method worked well for the few days I used it. I’m hoping the lunch totes will continue to work, though, because that seems to be the most failsafe method. The inside of the totes and well as the items there should both be safe when I’m ready to eat, so it’s less likely my food will become contaminated.
UPDATE: I ended up switching to using containers (when possible) and grocery bags to carry my breakfast and lunch to work. I was having issues and wanted to rule out the lunch totes as a possible cause. Whether or not they were causing problems, I decided packing containers in grocery bags (and washing at work what I couldn’t bring in containers) was so much easier than using the totes and washing them weekly. I decided to stick to bringing my meals this way rather than using the lunch totes. I also decided to keep one of the totes for myself and give the rest away to family and friends. I wasted a lot of money on those, but at least they’ve gone to people I believe will use them. I’ll probably use mine for carrying snacks or small meals when it will be the most suitable.
I’m hoping now that I’ve finally dealt with everything at work that has been causing recurrent wheat/gluten exposures. Other than some isolated incidents, which have dropped off significantly, things have been fine with meals at work. I’m hoping things stay that way and that I won’t have to change anything else!
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