When you’re reading up on the gluten-free lifestyle, or eating out at a gluten-free restaurant, you’ll often see or hear the words, “gluten cross-contamination vs cross-contact”, but what does it mean? Cross-contamination and cross-contact are very similar, but they are not the same thing. Let’s take a look at both in more detail. And also ways to prevent this from happening.
What Is Cross-Contamination?
Gluten-free cross-contamination/celiac cross-contamination is a term often used to describe when gluten-containing foods come into contact with gluten-free foods. Although you’ll hear the term often, it isn’t correct when talking about gluten-free food.
Gluten.org states that:
“The term “cross-contamination” is not an accurate description of gluten particles being present in gluten-free food. Cross-contamination refers to microorganisms, namely bacteria, that are transferred from one substance or object to another by accident that cause harm – like salmonella or E. coli.”
Gluten is in fact a protein, not a bacteria. Therefore, the correct term to use when referring to this process is cross-contact. Unlike bacteria, gluten protein can not be killed in heat like most bacteria; despite what you may be told. You’ll often hear your server in restaurants say, “we cook our foods at a high temperature, the gluten will be killed off”. That is certainly not the case!
When foods that are free from gluten come into contact with gluten-containing foods, this is when cross-contact occurs. Cross contact can happen almost anywhere. Even in simple ways you probably wouldn’t even have thought of! For example, touching a handle that may have been in contact with gluten. The most common places for cross-contact to occur are:
- Fast food outlets
- Your kitchen at home
Learn more about: How To Make A Gluten Free Cake Mix Taste Better
Whenever a product claims to be gluten-free, a separate facility is paramount. It must have it’s own designated area where it can be prepared, or cross-contact is a serious risk. Even a crumb of gluten can be enough to cause issues, so we must always be careful.
It can be daunting when you receive a diagnosis, and you’ll likely feel a lot of pressure; especially at home. I know I certainly did! I wasn’t sure if I could use the same utensils, the same appliances – it can be very overwhelming.
It doesn’t just happen on surfaces or using the same utensils to prepare both gluten-free and gluten-containing foods. It can even occur if appliances or utensils haven’t been cleaned sufficiently.
Tips For A Gluten-Free Kitchen
How to destroy gluten protein is a question that you’ll probably be asking if this is all new to you. My husband isn’t gluten intolerant, so there is often gluten particles in our kitchen at home. Keeping things separate and clean can be difficult if your household isn’t solely gluten-free; especially if you have a small kitchen.
Here are some tips to make life easier:
- No double-dipping. It’s so easy for someone in your household to be eating gluten toast and dip their butter knife repeatedly into the butter tub. You may not see crumbs – but they will be there! Be sure to tell your household to avoid double-dipping. Or better yet, have a separate butter for yourself so the risk isn’t there at all.
- Have Separate Areas. Even something as simple as keeping your gluten-free foods on the highest shelf so no gluten crumbs can drop down can make all the difference. Having separate cupboards for food is what we’d like in an ideal world, but we don’t always have the space. Just do as much as you can to minimize the risk with the space you have.
- Buy Extras. Whilst money may not allow this, buying appliances and tools just for your use would be extremely helpful. I would never use a toaster that had been used to warm gluten-containing bread – no matter how much it had been cleaned. Even having separate chopping boards, or anything wooden would be ideal.
- Awareness. Make sure your household and anyone that visits is aware of anything you have in place to keep your kitchen gluten-free. Specific tools, appliances, areas – awareness is key.
How To Clean Gluten Off Surfaces and Kitchenware
Once you have a routine in place, it’s very simple to keep your kitchen sparkling and free from any gluten protein. Let’s take a closer look at how to clean each part of your kitchen.
- Surfaces. It really can be as easy as soap and water – but make sure the water is hot. And scrub to your heart’s content. I also use disinfectant wipes after to really make sure any gluten that remains is eliminated.
- Utensils and Baking Trays. Again, hot soapy water is ideal. Leaving it to rinse in the water for a while is also a good idea. I would highly recommend ditching any wood you may have in your kitchen and instead, opt for stainless steel. Watch out for cracks that gluten particles may slip into.
- Handles and Cupboards. Gluten really can get anywhere. Using a disinfectant wipe is a quick solution to ensure no cross-contact has taken place.
- Appliances. If you use the same toaster (which I definitely would not recommend), use toaster bags. That would be the safest way if you do not have space for two toasters.
Reducing Cross Contact
These suggestions are ones in an ideal world. We don’t all have the facilities and space for everything to be the way we’d like it. But just do as much as you can, with the space you have. Any one of these will reduce the risk of cross-contact and that’s the most important thing.
Are there any other ideas you’d suggest to stop cross-contact? Any recommendations would be helpful for all of us! So feel free to leave them in the comments below.
As long as you’re doing all you can, that’s the most important thing.