6 Areas of Cross-Contamination in a Chick-fil-A Kitchen from a Former Employee's Perspective

Updated: Jul 9

*Disclaimer: Everything in this post is my own opinion and is solely based on my observations as an employee and long term customer of Chick-fil-A. If you are concerned about whether or not you should eat at this restaurant please consult your healthcare provider. Always use caution when eating at restaurants and be aware of potential cross-contamination. 


It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything for Eating Confidently, so if you have forgotten who I am or if you are joining us for the first time, my name is Katie and I’ve been on a gluten-free diet due to gluten intolerance for eight years now. I don’t have any known food allergies at this time, but I will do my best to go over what options are available for those with different allergies.


I worked at Chick-fil-A for almost two years as a cashier so I was able to become very familiar with the ins and outs of Chick-fil-A


For starters - you can order ANYTHING at Chick-fil-A by itself.


Want a single slice of cheese? You got it.


Want a GF bun? I’ve done this many times.


One nugget? You can do that too!


When you learn that everything at Chick-fil-A is easily customizable, you have an endless amount of options at your fingertips. 


One of the most important things to remember about eating at a business is the risk of cross-contamination and what ingredients are actually in the product. Cross-contamination is the transfer of bacteria or microorganisms from one substance to another. For example, if an employee is constructing a chicken sandwich and then touches the grilled nuggets with the same hand for a customer avoiding gluten, there is a strong possibility that cross-contamination has occurred. 





Fries and Hashbrowns


Fries & hashbrowns are cooked in a dedicated fryer.


From opening to 10:30 a.m., the only thing touching that fryer is hashbrowns.


From 10:30 am to close, the fryer is for fries only.


You can have varying levels of salt applied to these menu items, but ultimately they are going to be one of your safest options when it comes to cross-contamination. The fries and hashbrowns are cooked in canola oil and nothing else. The employee handling this fryer will typically use a scoop of some kind to place the item in the box or container but may use a gloved hand to pick a few up. 


Salads


At Chick-fil-A, there are some employees who will be assigned “prep”. This means that they spend a significant amount of time, typically in the morning, preparing items that will go in the cooler for quick grabbing.


The Grilled Market Salad is prepared and is ready to go out to the customers immediately. By completion, I mean that the cold chicken fillet (sliced) is placed on the salad when first made.


The side salad, which has no meat on top, is also prepared at this time.


The other two salads, the Spicy Southwest and the Cobb Salads are made in a “base” form without chicken. This is because when prepared, they will typically come with warm nuggets on top.


The employee preparing the salads will likely have come in contact with an allergen because, at this time, chicken wraps are also prepared. Don’t be afraid to ask for a freshly prepared salad.





Sandwiches, Strips, & Nuggets


To be completely transparent, I’m not 100% sure how the fillets and nuggets are cooked, but I do know that grilled nuggets are stored in a warmer separate from any of the fried foods.


Sandwiches are prepared by the same employee, so there is a chance that the person making a gluten-free sandwich just prepared one hundred original chicken sandwiches with the same pair of gloves on. The ingredients in the sandwich-making process include American, Colby-jack, and pepper-jack cheeses, lettuce, tomato, bacon, buns, and the filet. 


Desserts


All desserts are prepared in the same general area with the exception of the cookie.


While the ice cream cup is naturally gluten-free, the ice cream comes out of the same machine that is used to prepare ice cream cones.


I worked in the headset area for the last half of my employment, so I was responsible for making drinks and desserts for drive-thru customers. There were plenty of times that the cone got shoved so close to the spout the ice cream came out of I’m almost positive there was contact.


There is likely a considerable amount of cross-contamination amongst milkshakes and frozen drinks.


There are two stirrers on each ice cream machine that are used to blend the base liquid, the ice cream, and the toppings. If you are gluten-free, your milkshake is being stirred on the same stirrer that was just used to make a “cookies and cream” shake. If you order any flavor of milkshake or frosted drink, you run the risk of cross-contamination.


This single ice cream machine is responsible for making ice cream cups, cones, milkshakes, and frosted drinks.   





Drinks


Lemonade and sweet tea are prepared in the kitchen making them vulnerable to cross-contamination.


Be aware that they are prepared in plastic containers that can store any kind of kitchen food in them whether it be lettuce or soup. These containers are hand washed after each use, but this might be important information for someone extremely sensitive to some allergens.


Soft drink syrups are housed in the kitchen but are much more safe options than lemonade and sweet tea.


While this might not be good news, there are still several beverage options that are sealed when arriving at Chick-fil-A, so don’t give up hope!


Sauces


All of the dipping sauces at Chick-fil-A are sealed upon delivery at each location. There is no limit on what you can get (upon request) and they are a delicious addition to any meal! If you want to bring any dipping sauce home to use with other meals, they are available in large catering sizes for a low price as well. 



It has been over three years since I have been an employee at Chick-fil-A, and while there have been several items added to and removed from the menu, I believe that many of the preparation practices remain the same. 


What is your favorite allergy-friendly meal from Chick-fil-A? Let us know in the comments down below!


We hope that you have found a look into the Chick-fil-A kitchen very useful and we hope to continue to grow our resources to help as many people as we can with food allergies to eat confidently. Stay tuned for our comprehensive guide to eating at Chick-fil-A with allergies!


-Katie

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