Sunday, April 24, 2011


Living gluten free doesn't end with reading ingredient lists. Oh no, as all of us know the risk of cross contamination is high when dining out, but it's also high when dining in. But just how cautious do we have to be?

All of us know to keep our serving utensils separate between gluten and gluten free foods, and we don't prepare our foods on surfaces where wheat could have been. But do you need a separate toaster for gluten free breads? Do you need to keep separate condiments (you know, like the jelly jar where people spread jelly on their bread and then dip their knife back in for another scoop-leaving pesky bread crumbs behind)? Can you eat french fries that are fried in the same fryer with breaded chicken? This is where it gets complicated.

The World Health Organization defines naturally gluten free foods as having 20 PPM (parts per million) or less of gluten. According to a celiac can have intestinal damage after consuming just 0.1 grams of gluten-equivelant to 1/48th of a slice of bread! Crazy right? And proves just how important it is to regulate cross-contamination. In my opinion, this information shows it is important to keep separate condiment jars. As for the toaster, if you can't have a designated gluten free toaster, make sure to clean it before use.

I do have to admit I eat french fries and tortilla chips that share a fryer with gluten foods. Most of the time I feel fine with the french fries, but the chips are very hit or miss.  I haven't been around restaurant grade fryers much, but from my own home frying experience I've seen excess batter sink to the bottom-making me feel more comfortable with the risk. How many other celiacs take this risk?

My last thought on this topic is the risk associated with eating something that is gluten free, but is processed in a facility that also processes wheat. Honestly, if we were to avoid all products produced in a shared facility, I'm not sure I could handle the additional decrease in choices. My advice is to research what consumers have said about products with a risk of cross contamination. Usually if a product has a high risk, you can find out easily.

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