Avoiding Cross-Contamination at Home
There’s nothing we take more seriously than caring for our family’s health. Unfortunately food allergies can certainly make that task even more challenging.
If you or a family member are gluten free or have any other type of food sensitivity, you know how hard sharing the kitchen can be. While some families decide to completely eliminate all allergens from their home, this option may not be viable for others, especially larger families.
You might not think twice about the counter you use to prepare your food or the plate you put your food on, but for people with celiac disease, these common places can be a virtual mine field for cross-contamination.
If you find yourself still cooking with common allergens, or simply preparing household favorites that the rest of the family can’t do without, here are some tips to avoid contaminating your safe food:
- Hands – Teach all members of your household to wash their hands before touching any non-allergenic foods – even if they are touching it in order to serve themselves.
- Utensils – Make sure utensils and dishes have been thoroughly cleaned when preparing multiple meals. Depending on the severity of the allergy, you may want to invest in separate sets of utensils and dishes for gluten-free food preparation. Although it is unlikely, there is a possibility allergens can remain on dishes even after washing. Our hands and eating utensils can easily carry allergens and contaminate food, so keeping them clean is a staple in avoiding cross-contamination.
- Surfaces – Don’t prepare gluten-free foods on the same surface used to prepare foods with gluten unless the surface has been thoroughly cleaned. Separate your prep areas as far as possible so that allergens can’t easily travel between ingredients – think across the kitchen rather than side-by-side.
- Meals – If you are preparing both allergenic and non-allergenic food for the same meal, prepare the non-allergenic meal first, before you even open the other ingredients.
- Appliances – Don’t use the same toaster for gluten-free bread and regular bread. If your home isn’t entirely gluten-free and you can only have one toaster, try to make it a toaster oven and get extra trays from the manufacturer for toasting gluten-free bread. Also, when baking in the oven, use the top rack so there’s no risk of gluten “dripping” onto food below.
- Crumbs – Be diligent about crumbs! Watch out for crumbs on counters and in shared spreadable condiments. Even a few crumbs from food containing gluten can contaminate your gluten-free food.
“For people with celiac disease,” says Rachel Begun, M.S., R.D., and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “even just a microscopic amount of gluten can cause a reaction and damage to the intestines, such as a single bread crumb on a plate or speck of wheat flour on manufacturing equipment.”
These tips are simply a few recommendations for reducing the risk of cross-contamination when cooking at home. However, only you know your family’s needs best and you should always take any other precautions you deem necessary to keep your kitchen, and your next meal, safe.
What are some of the precautions you take in your own home? Do you have any tips or new and innovative ways of avoiding cross-contamination? Share your ideas and suggestions in the comments below.