For people diagnosed with celiac disease or who are gluten intolerant, it’s important to be aware
of how cross-contamination of gluten can occur.
When gluten-free foods come into contact with foods that contain gluten, cross-contamination can occur. Even in the manufacturing process, cross-contamination is a threat. If the equipment has not be learning or sterilized prior to the manufacturing of gluten-free products, cross-contamination can occur.
It’s important to check labels that include a “may contain” statement if cross-contamination is likely. However, this type of statement is voluntary. Additionally, you still need to check the actual ingredient list. If you cannot determine whether a food contains gluten, don’t buy it or check with the manufacturer first to ask what it contains.
Cross-contamination can also occur at home if foods are prepared on the same surfaces or with utensils that weren’t thoroughly cleaned after being used to prepare gluten-containing foods. For example, using a common toaster for gluten-free bread and regular bread is a major source of contamination. Develop a plan to prevent cross-contamination at home, school or work.
Dining out at restaurants can present another risk of cross-contamination. If planning to eat out, try calling ahead and ask the restaurant if the have gluten-free menu choices that are truly gluten-free, including being prepared so as to avoid cross-contamination.
Here are a few recommendations from Today’s Dietician on how to avoid cross-contamination:
• Don’t use wooden spoons or cutting boards that also are used to prepare gluten-containing foods because the spoons and boards can harbor residual gluten and bacteria. Metal or plastic are better options.
• Cover shared grilling surfaces when barbequing because unless the grill reaches 500˚F or higher for 30 minutes or longer, grilling won’t eliminate any residual gluten.
• Buy a separate waffle maker or bread maker if the one the family uses doesn’t have parts that can be disassembled and placed in the dishwasher.
• If using a separate toaster isn’t possible, use toaster-safe toaster bags such as Celinal Toast-It or Vat19 ToastIt, available online.
• When planning parties at home, prepare a buffet of foods that are 100% gluten free to prevent accidental cross-contamination among family members and guests.
• Buy squeezable condiment containers for ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise to prevent double dipping. If you don’t purchase squeezable containers, mark condiment jars as safe depending on whether they’ve been exposed to gluten-containing foods.
• Store gluten-free products on the top shelf of the pantry or refrigerator so other foods don’t accidentally cross-contaminate them.
• In supermarkets, don’t buy unpackaged foods stored in bins. The scoops used to place the foods in bags or containers may have been previously used on nearby gluten-containing foods and may not have been sufficiently cleaned.
• Use different colored stickers to distinguish between gluten-containing and gluten-free products in the pantry and fridge.
• Purchase a colander in a different color for gluten-free foods so it doesn’t get mixed up with the colander used for gluten-containing foods.
• Buy gluten-free grains that are certified gluten free to ensure cross-contamination didn’t take place during processing.
• Buy gluten-free flours marked as gluten free from reputable companies that are more likely to test for gluten.
• Avoid purchasing imported foods. Other countries may not abide by the same gluten-free standards as the United States.