If someone has a gluten free diet due to medical reasons (wheat allergy, Celiac disease , or gluten sensitivity), even a small crumb of food containing gluten can set off allergic or immune reaction. Some of the ways to minimize this risk are to read labels and contact manufacturers. In addition, you must control for cross contact. This occurs when gluten comes in contact with other foods or ingredients containing gluten as well as equipment that has processed foods with gluten.
Once you have verified the ingredients in your groceries are free of gluten, you must continue to safe guard your food while preparing it at home, especially if you also have gluten-containing food in your home.
Potential sources of cross contact may include:
• Toasters – consider a separate toaster for gluten free bread
• Colanders – designate one just for gluten free pasta, as it is next to impossible to scrub the gluten out of all the holes in a colander that once drained pasta made with wheat
• Cutting boards – gluten can ‘hide’ in the grooves of plastic cutting boards, so a separate cutting board is a good idea, or use a glass cutting board that can be washed more easily
• Flour sifters – wheat flour and gluten free flours should be used in different sifters
• Shared containers – any container with crevices that cannot be easily scrubbed should not be shared between gluten and gluten free food
• Condiments – a knife that spread butter on bread might get dipped back into the butter container, thus potentially contaminating the rest of the butter with gluten. Get separate condiment containers and clearly mark them.
Some people are so sensitive to gluten that they must also avoid airborne wheat flour. If you’ve ever watched as the mixer starts to mix flour, you can see it billow and float throughout the room. Be careful of bakeries that make both gluten containing and gluten free items unless they have separate kitchens.
The above sources of cross contact in prepping gluten free food must also be considered when dining out. A restaurant may have gluten free pizza crust, for example, but if prepped in the same area or baked on the same pan as a regular crust, this could come in contact with gluten. Be sure to (politely) ask the wait staff or manager questions about separate preparation areas when ordering gluten free food. Most managers are happy to talk with customers about their food allergies. Click here for more information from the Celiac Disease Foundation about dining out on a gluten free diet.
If you would like more information about gluten free eating, please visit this 30 minute webinar by OSU Extension on Gluten Free Eating and stay tuned to Live Smart Ohio for future posts on the Food blog.