Friday, January 4, 2013

10 Tips for Avoiding Cross-Contamination in the Home

If you, like so many, are sharing a kitchen with others who are not gluten free, then cross-contamination is always a real possibility.  The following tips and tricks can help minimize this risk and make sticking to a gluten free diet a little bit easier.

1- Separate toasters:  The littlest bit of gluten can be damaging, and that includes the crumbs that gather at the bottom of a toaster.  Gluten free bread should always be toasted in a separate, dedicated toaster that is not located where the crumbs from regular toast may fall in.

2- Condiments and Spreads: Peanut butter, butter, jams, mayonnaise...any jar or container that knives get dipped into are potential breeding grounds for cross-contamination.  One person uses a clean knife to get peanut butter out of the jar and spreads it on a regular piece of bread.  Then they stick the knife back in the jar to butter another piece of bread, and there you have it: cross-contamination.  Purchase dedicated spreads and condiments and label them clearly. 

3-Avoid shared utensils: One of the first things we did when we went gluten free for our son was to get new utensils, particularly serving spoons, spatulas, and cutting boards.  Gluten can hide in the grooves and crevices of utensils, especially wooden ones.  If others are preparing food that is off limits with those utensils, you shouldn't be using them.

4- Separate prep. and storage area: In addition to cutting boards and utensils, having a separate place to prepare food can save headaches down the road.  Knowing where your utensils are and here your food will be prepped makes it less likely that someone will accidentally use your cutting board to cut their sandwich in half.

5- Clean surfaces frequently: Crumbs and other traces of gluten can linger on surfaces long after the food they came from have been consumed.  Always wipe down surfaces before and after prepping food.  If baking, remember that flour can nestle into tiny cracks and crevices, and also remain airborne for long periods of time.

6- Baking: Don't use the same sifter for regular and gluten free flour.  Baking with regular flour is tricky enough; flour can remain airborne and settle on surfaces and food, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.  Having separate mixers and baking pans is also important.  Separate storage of regular baking items and ingredients with GF ones is essential.  Air tight containers are better than bags.

7- Beware the microwave: Microwaves can harbour crumbs as well, and it's easy for cross-contamination to happen.  Wipe the inside of the microwave down before heating gluten free food.

8- Practice Good Hygiene: Hands that have held a regular sandwich and then go on to touch multiple surfaces can spread gluten around and increase the risk of cross-contamination.  Have everyone wash hands after preparing and eating regular food.  Hands should also be washed before preparing gluten free food, to wash any traces of gluten away.

9- Prepare Gluten Free Food First: Whenever possible, prepare gluten free food first to avoid contamination.  This is especially important when baking, so that GF baked goods can be wrapped and put away before anything else is prepared.  If making GF food first isn't possible, keep food separated and always use separate utensils.

10- Serve Yourself First: When eating a meal that has some shared gluten free dishes, like a salad or a side dish, prepare a plate for the gluten free person first.  Often people will contaminate a gluten free dish accidentally, by using the same utensil to serve two different dishes, or by allowing a utensil to touch a gluten filled item on their plate. 

Have a tip you want to share?  Leave a comment below!


  1. We have a separate gluten free toaster in our home and are constantly wiping down countertops. I also always make gluten free foods first and serve myself first. Great tips!

    1. The constant cleaning and re-cleaning is something I'm VERY familiar with!

      Thank you for your comment!