Avoiding Cross-Contamination at Home

By Felipe

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.


Kids With Food Allergies Foundation

About.com – Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity

Eat Right Organization

13 responses to “Avoiding Cross-Contamination at Home”

  1. Mary Moran says:

    Toaster safe baggies are available to toast your bread in any toaster. great to take on trips when you only have hotel toaster to use.

  2. I use my GF stickers to identify gluten free products in the frig, freezer, and pantry to avoid cross-contamination. No double dipping!

  3. Rachel C says:

    Don’t forget your dish sponge! That is a common way people get cross-contaminated. And, I have even found gluten in my (natural) dishsoap! Don’t forget to check there, too.

  4. Sara R says:

    Keep 2 peanut butter jars, one marked GF, also works with margerine tubs. Mesh strainers can be a great place for cross contamination so keep those separate too!

  5. Heather says:

    My new trick is to use squeeze bottle products (like jelly and mayo) instead of jars and tubs. That way the whole family can use them without cross contamination worries.
    Also, thank you for your bread. It has been a pure joy to have bread again! Yours is the only one I will eat! I can’t wait until the stores have your dinner rolls!!
    Thank you!!!

  6. Melissa says:

    Thanks for these tips. I try to follow them all and there are one or two I should pay better attention to. If I had to give one suggestion . . . we put labels on all things food and otherwise that are gluten free. They are just round dots, but then my daughter knows they are safe for her to use/eat.

  7. Carrie says:

    I try to use different shapes of food. For example: I use small twist pretzels for our GF pretzels and only buy stick pretzels for the rest of the family. That way there is never any confusion. I also use one shapeof pasta for GF and a different shape for regular pasta.

  8. Dana says:

    We have a dedicated waffle iron for bread (rather than a toaster), we have separate peanut butter, jelly and butter tubs, clearly marked with a Sharpie. When there is any doubt at all, we don’t risk it.

  9. Brenda McCormick says:

    My daughter has been gluten-free with her lifestyle for 7 years now. She has her own skillet, utensils, toaster, waffle iron and her own place for her food in the refrigerator and also in the freezer. She has her own cabinet space so no one uses her special food, Instead of bannana nut bread or cornbread she puts them in cupcake holders and then she can freeze the remainder. The gluten-free flours are expensive so you don’t want to throw anything away. We have adjusted to this way of life and it is our normal now.

  10. Kathy says:

    Butter-just put a letter on the top of the GF one or use spray butter.
    Have separate toaster on the other side of the kitchen so someone doesn’t use it that shouldn’t use it or use the little bags for your toast if your at a hotel using their toaster.

  11. Melanie See says:

    We get our spreads (butter, peanut butter) in different sized containers…Big Spreadable Butter is Gluten Free–Little Spreadable Butter is for everyone else. (The opposite when it comes to peanut butter/jam/etc.) Works better for everyone so that folks don’t have to worry about looking for “GF” on the container.

  12. Marcela Ruggeri says:

    You’re right. At home, I prepare food, I’ve got my own utensils, but should be very difficult with children at home. Cross contamination is a very big problem for me, cause I have celiac disease, also corn allergy and lactose intolerance… Thanks a lot to give us tips and help! 🙂

  13. Claudia says:

    Absolutely!!! I always wash my pots, pans, cooking utensils etc. with hot soapy water. When we cook, GF items are prepared first and stored away from the gluten items. My son uses his own wok to prepare any items with gluten if he so desires. It’s funny how a little bit can make me not feel so well. A daunting task if I do say so.

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