The term “cross-contact” can also be used to replace “cross-contamination” as it more accurately describes when gluten-containing food comes into contact with gluten-free food. We have used the term cross-contamination in this post as it is still a more familiar term than cross-contact.
When one member of a household is diagnosed with Celiac disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, every member of the household is impacted. For the Celiac, even a trace amount of gluten can make them ill. For those with gluten sensitivity, ingesting gluten can cause irritation or a flareup. So, given what’s at stake, it’s very important that you make your home as gluten-safe as possible.
Luckily, due to the growing popularity and awareness of the gluten-free diet, gluten-free products are more available than ever. Also, packaging information has advanced and most packaging now clearly states when something is gluten-free, or when it may contain allergens, or when there is a risk of cross-contamination in production. That makes things a little easier but everyone must still remain on high alert for cross-contamination any time gluten is present in the home of a Celiac or someone diagnosed with Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.
Before we get to the tips…
These tips to prevent gluten cross-contamination will definitely help keep your home safe but we must first deliver a crash course on the basics of living gluten-free to everyone in the household. Even if their diet will remain unchanged, they still have to become very aware of things like the many sources of gluten to be able to identify it, and know what contains versus might contain means on labels to name a few.
We have packaged this key information up in our Ultimate Guide for Living Gluten-Free for Beginners. It’s critical that every member of the household know the basics to better understand the reasoning behind these tips and why they are needed to help keep your home safe and healthy for all when gluten-free and gluten-containing foods are being prepared and/or eaten in the same area.
Storage and Preparation Tips to Preventing Gluten Cross-Contamination at Home
1. A safe kitchen starts in the grocery store
Step one of making sure your kitchen is gluten-free safe, is making sure the food that is brought in, is safe. We have put together these 10 basic gluten-free shopping tips to help make shopping a breeze even if you are living gluten-free on a budget.
2. Store gluten and gluten-free foods separately
Make sure that gluten-free food items are stored in separate jars, bins, containers, baskets than those containing gluten. It doesn’t matter if they are wrapped or not. Keep them separate. Maintain a gluten-free pantry for all your cooking and gluten-free baking ingredients.
3. Label everything
If storing gluten-free food items in your home for a Celiac or someone with Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, it’s very important that everything is clearly labelled accordingly to avoid any confusion.
4. Create gluten-free zones
Along with separate storage and labelling, it is also a good practice to create gluten-free zones in the kitchen for food preparation to prevent gluten cross-contamination.
5. Keep separate pots and pans
If you can, maintain a separate set of pots and pans for gluten-free and gluten cooking. Also, make sure they are stored separately and clearly labelled. Or you can make it a rule to cook/prepare the gluten-free meal first, and the meal which contains gluten afterwards.
6. No wooden, silicone, or plastic utensils
Wooden, silicone, and plastic utensils are porous and difficult to thoroughly clean. As such, they can hold onto gluten. It is best to avoid utensils made of these materials and stick with those made of glass or metal. An alternative would be to keep separate utensils that are used exclusively for gluten-free food. A dedicated gluten-free cutting board is essential. A great way to do this is to colour code them- you buy single colour sets of utensils and assign one colour for gluten and another for gluten-free.
7. Keep separate cleaning rags/sponges
Much like some utensil materials, rags/sponges can absorb gluten. As such, you can transfer gluten onto another surface if you are using a rag or sponge that is full of gluten.
8. Clean/Disinfect all surfaces, utensils after each use
It is imperative that all surfaces and utensils are carefully cleaned after every use. To be even more certain, you can wash them before you start cooking too. This includes countertops, handles, pots, pans, baking tins, cutlery, cooking utensils, dishes, etc. EVERYTHING.
9. Clean/Disinfect all small appliances after each use
It is also important to clean/disinfect all small appliances after use. Small appliances like toasters, toaster ovens, microwave ovens, etc. To be extra sure, you might want to clean them prior to use as well, you can’t be too careful. You can also keep small appliances – like toaster ovens – separate.
When you have guests assisting in the kitchen make sure they are aware of the necessity to maintain a gluten-safe environment. Explain the protocol that must be followed and the reason for it.
Cooking Tips to Prevent Gluten Cross-Contamination at Home
- Wrap your food, especially proteins, in parchment paper and then foil when being cooked to help prevent cross-contamination. This can be applied when using a shared toaster oven, or barbeque, for example.
- Do not use the same oil to fry gluten-free food as you do for gluten food. Ideally, clean oil only is used for gluten-free food. If being shared, make sure the gluten-free item is fried first and then fry the gluten containing items.
- Keep separate containers of spreads like butter, cream cheese, jam, peanut butter, mayo, etc. and label gluten-free spreads to avoid an accidental mix up. You should also keep your gluten-free spreads on a separate shelf. Bread crumbs can easily get left behind.
- When cooking or preparing food, make the gluten-free food first when possible. It’s just a safer order. For example, when making something like sandwiches for lunches, make the gluten-free sandwiches first.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but we hope these tips to prevent gluten cross-contamination keep those living gluten-free in your household, safe.
Do you live in a home that accommodates both gluten and gluten-free diets? Do you use these tips to keep your home safe for those live with Celiac disease or those with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity? What other tips do you use? Please share your tips with us so we can all get better at staying gluten safe.
Peace and health my fellow GFFs.