Health Column: For those with gluten sensitivity, cross contamination is a big deal |

Health Column: For those with gluten sensitivity, cross contamination is a big deal

Angela Wetzel
Free Press Health Columnist
coconut bread slices
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

When you are gluten free, a term used often is “cross contamination.”

According to, cross contamination is “a phenomenon that occurs when a food that does not itself contain any allergens is tainted with an allergen during food preparation, cooking, storage, or serving.”

What does this really mean? Basically, if I cut a loaf of regular bread on a cutting board and then turn around and cut gluten-free bread, the gluten-free bread is contaminated. Even if you wipe the board down before cutting the gluten-free bread, there is still cross contamination.

What is the best way to prevent this if you are preparing food for friends or family who are gluten free?

Here are some ways to keep everyone safe:

1. Wash your hands, counters, and any place you are prepping foods before preparing anything gluten free. This will help ensure that your food items stay gluten free.

2. Prepare anything that is gluten free first. This will be a big help in making sure there is no cross contamination.

3. Have a separate toaster, strainer, cutting board, and utensils for gluten-free and regular foods. If you have a “split” household (some who are gluten free, some are not) it is very important to have these items, as well as pots and pans that are separate. Color coding these items would be a great way to make sure gluten-free items are kept separate.

4. If you are having a group over, use squeeze bottles for items like mayo, ketchup, mustard and even ranch. This will prevent double dipping.

The main thing to remember is that even the littlest crumb can cause issues with someone who has celiac disease or has gluten sensitivity. Having two toasters in your home may seem silly, but if a bread crumb can cause intestinal damage, it is imperative to have that second toaster.

A note to restaurants: When you say you have gluten-free bread for toast, please make sure to have a toaster that is designated only for gluten-free bread. The same goes for utensils, pans, a dedicated fryer, as well as a dedicated area on your grill for gluten-free items.

While I realize that having a separate kitchen may not be cost effective, these small items can help make eating out so much less dangerous for those of us who are gluten free.

If you need help avoiding cross contamination, please feel free to ask me. I’m happy to help.

GJ Free Press health columnist Angela Wetzel has celiac disease and is president of Gluten Free Grand Valley, a support group for those with celiac disease and wheat allergies. Contact her at or visit Gluten Free Grand Valley on Facebook.

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