What is Cross Contamination?
Cross contamination can happen easily in the home kitchen. It is usually when food items containing gluten find their way into food which is eaten by someone who has celiac disease. Cross contamination is one of the forms of hidden gluten that can cause both short and longer term problems for a person who is celiac. To avoid cross contamination occurring, it is important to think about a few food related issues:
- how food is handled
- who handles food in the kitchen
- how and where food is stored
- whether gluten containing and gluten free foods are stored and prepared together
Many of these are fairly personal issues, and it is certainly not the purpose of this article to suggest that there is one ‘right’ way of managing the cross contamination issue in a home kitchen. Rather it is simply to highlight that cross contamination can occur at home, and to suggest ways of managing the food handling process to limit the negative consequences for anyone with celiac disease in the family.
Avoiding Hidden Sources of Gluten Through Food Handling Skills
Some useful tips for avoiding cross contamination and therefore hidden sources of gluten in the diet include:
having separate margarine / spread containers (these can often be found as plastic tubs for spreads in second hand shops) - label and keep margarines separate for people with and without celiac disease
use two toasters for toasting bread - a separate toaster for gluten free bread keeps it safely away from gluten containing bread crumbs
have two chopping boards so none of those pesky gluten laden crumbs find their way into a well prepared gluten free wrap at the last moment!
teach children not to ‘double dip’ into jams, spreads and margarines - encourage them to get a second knife if they need to get a bit more jam for their toast, rather than re-dipping the same knife that has been on their non gluten free toast back into the gluten free jam
have a ‘no blame’ policy in the kitchen so that children never feel they should hide the fact they have messed up and contaminated a container - it is far better that they tell you there is a problem (such as bread crumbs in the honey) so you can deal with the problem rather than discovering it months later after eating from the container all that time
prepare gluten free meals first, on a well cleaned down bench or cooking surface
put pots, pans and plates that have had gluten sources on them straight into the sink or dishwasher rather than leaving them lying around
buy bread which has already been sliced instead of trying to slice it yourself - home slicing sends showers of bread crumbs literally everywhere!
encourage the whole family to eat gluten free dinners (especially for meals like pasta dishes) at night time so you don’t have to focus on which serving spoon to use in the regular pasta and which one goes in the gluten free one
You can see that with a little bit of effort early on, you can easily avoid at least some of the hidden sources of gluten that might be hiding out at your place without you even realising it.