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Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination is when gluten-free food comes into contact with food that does contain gluten and becomes contaminated.

For those with Celiac Disease (CD), one small, tiny contamination (one crumb!) can be enough to make you sick. Here we look at how to avoid common contamination mistakes that can happen in the home and what to look out for when dining out of the home.

Mistake # 1: Crumbs on Common Surfaces

Scenario: Someone used a cutting board to slice bread that contains gluten, and the crumbs are left behind. Exposure to those crumbs can result in exposure.

Solution: Let friends and family know that all surfaces must be cleaned with soap and water after use for your safety. Designate specific cutting boards as gluten-free only – especially wooden ones. For those with very sensitive CD, it can't hurt to wear gloves when cleaning gluten-contaminated surfaces and utensils.

Mistake #2: The Double Dip

Scenario: You are making tuna fish sandwiches with a friend and crumbs from their gluten-containing bread end up in the mayonnaise. Exposure to those crumbs can result in exposure.

Solutions:

  • Keep your own jar of mayo clearly labeled as “Gluten-Free Only”.
  • Create a “no double dip rule”. Only clean utensils are allowed into jars. This would apply to all condiment jars: mustard, jelly, peanut butter, salsa, etc.
  • Use squeeze bottles as much as possible, no double dipping concern

Mistake #3: Shared Kitchen Appliances

Scenario: Everyone is having bagels for breakfast and there is only one toaster. Crumbs from gluten containing bagels can be left behind in the toaster, contaminating the gluten-free bagel.

Solution: Because toasters are difficult to clean on the inside, the safest thing to do is have a toaster is designated as “Gluten-Free only”. Or maybe it’s time to throw the old one away and purchase a new one.

* Make sure to also check toasterovens, panini makers, microwaves, waffle makers, etc.

#4: The Busy Grill

Scenario: Burger night. Gluten-free buns go on the grill after gluten-containing buns come off. This can cause exposure!

Solutions:

  • Clean grill with soap and water between use
  • Designate one part of the grill as “Gluten-Free Only”
  • Time for a new grill!
  • Wrap all meat and buns in foil to avoid contact with the grates

*Please be careful of this scenario at other people's homes and at parties, it's a very common way to get cross-contaminated.

Mistake #5: Shared Utensils

Scenario: A pot of gluten-free pasta is cooking next to a pot of gluten-containing pasta. The same spoon is used to stir both. Cross-contamination has happened!

Solution: Label utensils as “gluten-free only”. Store them together and make sure they are only used with gluten-free products. Same goes with pots and pans!

Mistake #6: The Shared Colander

Scenario: That same gluten-free pasta gets drained into the same colander as the gluten-y pasta. Bam! Contamination has happened!

Solution: Use separate colanders and label one as “Gluten-Free Only”.

* Make sure to also check things like muffin tins and bread pans.

Mistake #7:  Sharing Deep-Fry Oil

Scenario: Dinner tonight? Breaded fish. One batch is made gluten-free and the other batch has gluten. If the gluten batch goes in the oil first, it will contaminate the oil.

Solution: Use separate frying pans for each batch and/or fry the gluten-free fish first.

Mistake #8: Using the Dirty Sponge

Scenario: A sponge with crumbs from a gluten covered plate is used to clean a “gluten-free only” mixing spoon. Residue is left behind.

Solution: Separate sponges and use different colored ones to remember which is used for gluten-free only.


Cross-Contamination Checklist

  • All surfaces, counter-tops, stove tops, cutting boards, etc. have been cleaned with soap and water
  • Condiments have been labeled gluten-free
  • The “No Double Dip” Rule has been placed in effect. (This means only clean utensils are allowed to go into containers).
  • The “Before and After” Rule has been placed in effect. (This means that any kitchen item must be cleaned with soap and water before and after every use.)
  • Kitchen appliances have either been cleaned or replaced. Toasters should be replaced, microwaves, waffle and Panini makers should be cleaned with soap and water before and after every use.
  • The grill grates have been cleaned with soap and water and then certain parts of the grill are designated as “gluten free only.”
  • Specific kitchen utensils, pots, pans, muffin tins, etc. are labeled as “gluten-free only”. These items are only used with gluten-free foods and stored separately.
  • Sponges, dishtowels, and other cleaning products are labeled for gluten-free use only.
Jess
The "double dip" is SO EASY to forget and such a common way for cross-contaimation to happen. These are such great reminders!
celiacandallergyadventures
This is a great list. Cross contamination is something so many non-Celiacs don't understand! Even people who are just diagnosed often don't understand this aspect of it, so I think it's extremely helpful.
wssharrow
Can I wash my metal colander in the dishwasher to rid it of gluten?
Jan
Yes, washing in a dishwasher would rid the gluten from your colander. Also, washing carefully with soap and water should do the trick too.
FREDA
I had not thought of cross contamination. I am just beginning to collect food and clear out gluten products. Friends bring samples to work. I will share this information with my friends.
pwalter
Don't forget the dog biscuits - be careful where you lay them down and to wash hands after. Also watch giving them tidbits from the table! My friend handed me a small piece of butter toast for the dog, then I went to pick up my gluten free toast - he warned me not to touch my toast after!!! It is a learning process. I am new at this and still learning. I am only allergic to gluten, not celiac.
pwalter
I think I made an incorrect statement about not being celiac. I was tested for Dermatitis Herpetiformis and it came back positive from the skin biopsy near my blistered elbow. I read in one place it is a form of celiac, but not sure at this point. I know not eating gluten for more than a month has helped. I am still being careful of the dog biscuits, dog food and canned dog food. Tons of gluten in those products. Can't touch them without washing my hands for cross contamination.... more
I think I made an incorrect statement about not being celiac. I was tested for Dermatitis Herpetiformis and it came back positive from the skin biopsy near my blistered elbow. I read in one place it is a form of celiac, but not sure at this point. I know not eating gluten for more than a month has helped. I am still being careful of the dog biscuits, dog food and canned dog food. Tons of gluten in those products. Can't touch them without washing my hands for cross contamination. Cat food is the same. Who would think about cross contamination from our pets!!! Still gotta love our pets! less
Jan
DH is definitely a form of celiac disease. I'm glad you're finding relief from eliminating gluten from your diet. So smart to be careful of pet food and many other hidden sources of gluten: http://www.glutenfreedomproject.com/learning/topics/5003/5607. Also be aware of your medications by referring to: www.glutenfreedrugs.com. Washing your hands frequently after feeding pets is such an intelligent way to go to be safe.