It’s nice when all the members of the family or a household adhere to only one type of diet. It’s a whole ‘nother story if you’re a solo gluten-free dieter at home.
In a study made by the American Dietetic Association, it was revealed that a number of grains that are inherently gluten-free (7 of the 22 grains tested) came out actually having gluten above 20 parts per million–the limit that FDA has set for a product to be called gluten-free.
Hold it, what? How does this happen? That is because of cross-contamination. Gluten can contaminate non gluten-containing foods in its different phases of production: from harvest of ingredients in farms where gluten-containing foods are planted, manufacturing in plants where gluten-containing foods are also processed, or even in the bulk bins in stores where they are placed next to gluten-containing items.
And so, it is an important thing to note that right at home, cross-contamination may also happen. Kitchens used to prepare food that contains gluten; cooking tools, toasters, ovens, dishwashers, may actually pose risks of contaminating the food you eat.
What to do to avoid gluten cross-contamination? Here are some handy tips! How strict you will implement these would depend on how reactive you are to gluten. If you have Celiac Disease, we advise ticking all items on the list.
- Have dedicated cooking tools such as pots, pans, cutting board, toasters, and ovens for preparing gluten-free meals.
If what you use in the kitchen handle non-gluten containing foods, it is best to have its gluten-free version. Though it would not be that practical to have two of everything, especially big expensive appliances, you can opt to have smaller versions of it for your solo use, at a fraction of the cost. Or if you are throwing away an old oven for a new model, for example, but they actually still work, disinfect and keep them as your gluten-free safe one.
For smaller items, definitely do not scrimp. Tools that you have to be extra careful about are strainers, peelers, graters; those that commonly get food stuck in crevices, even after thorough washing. Be safe, and get a twin.
- Separate a section for gluten-free items in your pantry and cabinets, a separate shelf in your refrigerator, ideally the topmost.
Not border-lining on OCD, it actually makes sense to have 2 separate areas at home for gluten-free and non-gluten-free items. It will make cooking and eating a lot more convenient, as you wouldn’t always be digging through your pantry to find safe items every time. It would also stop gluten from sneaking their way into your meals when stored.
- Choose stainless steel cutlery and tools for easy cleaning decontamination. Avoid wooden spoons.
We’re in love with wooden spoons. They’re pretty, are gentler on sensitive cookwares and there’s that organic mama-is-home feel to it. But they can also be a pain to clean, and we’re not exactly 100% sure they are food safe. These can crack overtime with heat and repeated use, and then gluten-containing food particles can get stuck in them, not to mention they can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Once a week (or more than once, if your family members are amenable) have a gluten-free day.
This is a day when you will only cook from your gluten-free pantry section, and no one is allowed to complain 😉
Your food safety relies heavily on the support system you can get from your household. Aside from speaking to them directly about the health impact for you of being gluten-free, do this also with hope of them getting consciously more considerate of the real diet needs of other household members.
The meals that you will eat on this day will also show them gluten-free day food is actually not that different from their usual meals. If you cook with ingredients from scratch, a bonus would be adding less processed foods, and more natural ingredients to their diet (Since they’d also be eating no additives that may contain gluten).
- And lastly, the mother of it all: Have the entire household go gluten-free.
It’s not easy to get everyone on this special diet, but a gluten-free household is the surest way to avoid cross-contamination. When something is not gluten-free, drop it at the doorstep before coming in. It is worth it to have some inconveniences and adjustments in the beginning, when in the end, you can say on a daily basis that you are healthy and safe in your own house.
Any more tips that you do in your own home to avoid gluten cross-contamination? Feel free to leave some in the comments! 🙂
 Thompson, T, et al. “Gluten Contamination of Grains, Seeds, and Flours in the United States: a Pilot Study.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2010, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20497786.