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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.