Home Eating Out How to avoid cross-contamination

How to avoid cross-contamination

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One way you can lessen the risks of cross-contamination is thinking about areas where the potential hazards of cross-contamination may be high and taking what steps you can to minimise them. When doing this, it is worth remembering that less than a crumb of regular bread can cause problems for people who are coeliac.

Bread boards
Ideally people who are gluten sensitive should have their own bread board, and knives should be washed between cutting regular bread, croissants, crumpets and pastries and gluten-free items.

Knives

Communal knives that are not washed between cutting bread and gluten-free items may carry enough gluten to cause a problem for coeliacs.

Toasters
These are also an area of concern: gluten-free products can easily pick up sufficient traces of gluten in a communal toaster for it to be an issue. One way round this is to dedicate one side of a toaster to gluten-free breads and crumpets. Labelling the toaster may help remind others in a household. A more expensive way round this is to buy bags that have been specially designed for bread to go into before it is toasted.

Grills

May also be where food may pick up gluten while they are cooking. A simple way round cross-contamination is to use a separate sheet of aluminium foil under your food.

Surfaces
These are a prime area of cross-contamination. To avoid this, keep all kitchen surfaces, including those in the fridge clean and use pvc-free cling film to prevent inadvertent mixing.

Cutlery
Communal cutlery can be a problem if it touches gluten containing products and such spoons are then re-used by someone who is gluten sensitive. At home, we have found a way round this is to place dips, spreads, jams, curds and compots on separate plates with spoons alongside them. We then ask guests who don’t need to avoid gluten to use these spoons to transfer such preserves to their plates rather than directly to any gluten containing product.The same applies to communal knives used to cut cheeses or butter. We have found people quickly understand the need for this and are more than happy to take such care.

Separate jars for food

If you are unsure that you can keep food stored in jars uncontaminated another way around this is to buy and label separate jars used only by the gluten intolerant in a household. Jars that are re-used need to be carefully cleaned if used to store dry gluten-free foods.

Buffets and communal servings spoons
When eating out beware of the spoons on a buffet table: these are generally a minefield carrying greater risk than food served individually. Serving spoons may also have picked up gluten from other food. Even fresh fruit may have picked up cross-contamination if placed close to cakes.

Reused cooking water
Gluten-free pasta or spaghetti cooked in the same water as regular pasta will absorb gluten from the water so always use a separate pan containing fresh water when cooking gluten free pasta. If you are unsure, checking that a restaurant does this may be a good idea.

Deep fat fryers
Similarly, a deep fat fryer used to cook both gluten containing and gluten-free products is also unsafe. This is worth thinking about when ordering food from a restaurant. That said, don’t automatically assume anything fried is out-of-bounds. Some restaurants – and even one gastro-pub we visited – have dedicated deep fat fryers that they use only for gluten-free products.

Photograph by Pathlost.