Celiac Disease: Preventing Cross Contamination

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body mounts an immune response to ingestion of the protein gluten.   Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley.   When a person with celiac disease eats gluten the corresponding immune response from the body can lead to damage in the intestine.   The symptoms range between abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, fatigue, joint pain and even iron deficiency.   For a complete list of symptoms check out Celiac.org.

**If you are dealing with celiac and your family is not, cross contamination can be a huge concern.   For people with celiac disease even small amounts of gluten can be harmful.  ** That is why any manufacturer with a "gluten-free" label will also state if their product is made in a facility that is also gluten-free.   However, many families do not choose to go completely gluten-free due to the costs.   If your home is not gluten-free how can you make it as safe as possible?

Use different colored utensils

When you are stirring pasta or flipping pancakes, be careful not to use the same utensils with your gluten-free food as you do with the regular foods.   It can be very helpful to color code your utensils to help you remember which ones to use.   For example, black for the regular foods and red for your gluten-free foods.

Watch for "double dipping"

Items such as peanut butter, sticks of butter, margarine, mustards and other condiments can be a breeding ground for double dipping and crumb catching.   It is always best to be sure you have your own set of these condiments and foods to prevent wheat crumbs from contaminating your snack.

Use a separate prep counter or cutting board

When you are prepping foods that are gluten-free, be sure to use a separate counter from the one regular foods have been used on.   Setting your gluten-free bread on crumbs from wheat bread can pick up enough to make some people sick.

Wash areas thoroughly with separate sponges or cloths

Proper cleaning is very important in preventing cross contamination.   Be careful that you use separate brushes, sponges or cloths, as they can drag crumbs and gluten right along with them.

Use a dishwasher whenever possible

Proper use of a dishwasher can clear all gluten protein and particles from your dishes, pots and pans.   You don't have to have separate pans for your gluten-free foods as long as they are cleaned properly between uses.

Wash hands thoroughly

Proper hand washing can also remove gluten particles from the hands.   Don't gloss over this tip   Many times this is the one thing that can be rushed through.   Instead, wash your hands with soap and warm water for the proper amount of time -- about as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice.

Label effectively

Be sure all of your products are labels for your safety and so no one else in the house will use them by mistake and cross contaminate.   You can use simple labels from the grocery store with a marker or try some of these brightly colored labels for your food.

If you follow these simple steps you can insure that your foods remain gluten free- even if your family is not!

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition.   She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years.   Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER). ** See More Helpful Articles:**

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