Yes, it’s a thing.
A person with Celiac disease can have an event triggered by even a tiny amount of gluten, so thinking about cross-contamination while preparing, cooking, and serving the food is important. Here are some straightforward steps to reducing the risk of gluten cross-contamination:
- Before cooking begins, wipe down all work surfaces with cleanser or detergent and rinse because gluten is the stickiest of proteins.
- Scrub your cutting boards. I know they normally get briefly shaken clean after a bagel is sliced, but just shaking will not remove the gluten. Scrub please.
- If you are cooking a gluten-free meal in the pot you always boil pasta in, then clean it thoroughly. Same goes for the colander or mesh strainer that you normally use to drain pasta or sift flour. Any leftover stuck on starch or flour contains gluten that can transfer to the gluten free food you are carefully preparing.
- If you are cooking and serving both gluten-free and gluten-containing foods, do not use the same utensils for both the gluten-free and the gluten-containing. Sounds obvious but in the midst of cooking it is easy to forget and double dip. Have a strategy for keeping things separate or you are setting yourself up for disappointing contamination.
- When serving crackers and cheese, the gluten-free and the gluten-containing need to be on different serving dishes. Rice crackers separated from wheat crackers by just the cheese does not work. The mixing of crumbs via the cutting knife, the breaking crackers, and a less educated party-goer rearranging the crackers when everything is on one platter occurs all the time. Trust me on this. I watch the platter if I am considering eating from it. Divide the cheese and have one platter dish be gluten free, your guest with Celiac disease will thank you.
- Condiments in jars can be a source of cross-contamination. If you have spread mustard or mayonnaise on bread while making multiple sandwiches at once, there will be bread crumbs that have stuck to the knife and entered the contents of the jar. Consider opening a fresh jar to be safe and ensure that your meal is gluten free.
- Deli items sliced at the deli counter are a source of gluten as the server has been making sandwiches with the same plastic gloves, maybe even sandwiches on rolls dusted with flour. These servers then pick up the turkey breast or cheese to be sliced and spread the flour to the meat. The deli meat may have been gluten free when it was in the package, but now it is not. Ask for new gloves, an unopened package, and for the server to wipe down the slicer, or purchase gluten free packaged deli meat from a brand such as Applegate or Boars Head.