Friday, 9 November 2012

New To A Gluten Free Diet - Cross Contamination

As if it isn't hard enough getting your head around going gluten free to begin with there's other factors outside of what foods you can and can't eat. Cross contamination is when a gluten free food comes into contact with gluten, thus making it contaminated.

The easiest way that this happens is in the preparation or cooking processes. Say you use a chopping board that has just been used to slice bread, regular bread. Whatever you put on that chopping board is now contaminated with gluten. If you put gluten free bread into a non exclusively gluten free toaster? Contamination. Fry chips in oil that has been use to fry non gluten free breaded or battered items? Contaminated.

If you're eating gluten free but still feeling unwell, this may be what's causing it.

Cross contamination can easily occur, I remember early on when I used a pan that had previously cooked pasta, it had been washed but I still got a reaction from the food I cooked in it. I now have a gluten free kitchen but I still make a point of washing up thoroughly.

Another example is due to lack of awareness when new to the gluten free diet. Sure, you can't have the pizza crust but what if you took a piece of topping off and ate that? Even if that topping is gluten free it has still been in contact with the crust, or the person who has topped the pizza has almost certainly touched the crust, then the topping. It sounds obvious when you've been gluten free for a while, at the beginning not necessarily so.

I've been glutened more times by cross contamination in the last 3 years than I have by accidentally eating something with gluten in. Two instances have happened at my parents, one where I used a tea towel to dry my hands another when making Moules Mariniere, I took all the ingredients with me but the kitchen environment was just too contaminated as it turned out. It was a silly mistake on my part, bread alone is consumed like it's going out of fashion there. It only takes a crumb to contaminate and I'll suffer.

The last example of just how easy cross contamination can occur is when sharing food. Let's imagine eating a bag of crisps, a friend says can I have one? You offer the bag and they take one. Later on you feel those familiar symptoms, what's happened? That friend just ate a sandwich, a slice or pizza or something else equally filled with gluten and didn't wash their hands, they just contaminated your entire pack of crisps.

I'm not shy of making a big deal out of this because I don't want to spend a day or more in the bathroom. It's that simple. I once had a person grab for a cracker out of a pack I was eating, no warning. That person got their wrist grabbed tightly and quite sternly told NO. I then made her wash her hands if she so absolutely had to have a gluten free cracker that was quite dry and lacking in flavour.

So how can you avoid cross contamination?

  • The easiest way at home is to have a gluten free kitchen, but that's not always possible
  • If using a kitchen that gluten is prepared and cooked in make sure you have a dedicated chopping board and always use a surface cleaning spray and kitchen towel before you start preparing your food
  • Kitchen towel is better to use than a tea towel
  • Washing your hands should always be a priority
  • Wash any utensils or equipment before use if they've been used for gluten containing food prior, even when straight out of the drawer or cupboard
  • Never use a toaster that has contained regular bread
  • Have a dedicated area where you can keep your gluten free food away from gluten containing food
  • Never cook gluten free food and regular food together in the same pot, pan, dish or tray
  • If deep frying, never use existing oil unless it has been used exclusively for gluten free food
  • If eating a meal where others are eating gluten, don't let their cutlery touch your plate or food
  • Don't get frisky with someone who has just stuffed a load of gluten in their mouth, toothpaste is your friend
Obvious once you've been gluten free for a while, when just starting out, not so.

It's awkward being gluten free and sharing a home with others who aren't but with a lot of care and attention you should hopefully avoid cross contamination if you keep your wits about you. Others may think you're slightly mad to begin with, definitely having OCD but it takes a lot of effort to keep a shared kitchen safe for someone on a gluten free diet, it's worth being obsessive for a while if it means not getting glutened.

More on Monday, here's to a great weekend!

New to a gluten free diet what can I eat?


  1. Thanks a lot for this informative article. Besides going gluten-free, I am also trying to incorporate low-calorie sweeteners in my diet and I need enough info regarding this shift of lifestyle.

  2. Hope it works out for you. Thanks for the comment.

  3. If a person is serious about eating healthy types of food then he or she must not forget about kitchen cleanliness. I experienced this before when I stayed in my grandparents’ house for a week. They cannot do chores very well so I think it might be the cause.

  4. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for your comment, it's hard to stay safe in a kitchen where gluten has been used, lots of cleaning is a must.


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