Managing Cross contamination & being gluten freel. Just the words fill you with dread. I think it is the scariest part of Coeliac Disease.
But what does it actually mean as a parent of a coeliac child & what happens in your daily life?
Just one crumb can mean the difference between being well and being ‘glutened’ by cross contamination. Glutened is the term most Coeliacs use when they have accidently consumed gluten. How your child reacts depends on how long they have been off gluten & on their gluten free diet and what their reactions were before they were diagnosed.
It’s just a crumb……..
But it’s not just one crumb that’s a visible contaminator. It’s if someone uses the wrong butter & scrapes their gluten bread with it, dipping their knife into the jam jar, the mayonnaise, mustard, cutting the cheese with a dirty knife on a crummy breadboard. Sharing bags of crisps, popcorn, sweets are out too as maybe that person or child has just had their regular gluten sandwich, and puts their hand into your child’s crisps…. The risk is too great.
So how do you avoid cross contamination?
Keep your kitchen clean, crumb free and have processes that everyone knows so that any contaminations can be minimised at all times. Let’s focus on the kitchen and the various risks you may or may not think of. This is based on how we work our kitchen as I’ve one child with Coeliacs and one without.
When my daughter was diagnosed, I chose to change pretty much anything that the ‘family’ used as a whole, so that if she grabbed anything, it wouldn’t make her ill. This included all cereals, crisps & anything I cooked with.
We’ve one corner area in the kitchen that houses the toaster & bread bin. This is the only area that ever has gluten in it. I stopped baking with gluten flour in 2018 as the potential for contamination was too high. Flour just goes everywhere & wasn’t worth the risk once diagnosed. See our Top Ten Tips in beginning your gluten free journey.
Cupboards – Once diagnosed, check everything that you use for family cooking. If you use packet mixes, stock cubes, spices, frozen meals, chips – check to see if they contain wheat/gluten or are a ‘may contain’.
Your child will need their own butter, jam, spreads. Squeezy bottles – honey, jam, ketchup come handy here as they are less likely to get a knife dipped into them.
Managing Cross Contamination
You have a lovely wooden chopping board. You use it for everything. Cutting bread, vegetables, fruit. It’s cleaned & scrubbed on a regular basis.
Wood however, can harbour the gluten & contaminants so it is best kept just for bread – gluten bread and not for using to cut/chop other items. We have several plastic boards that can be used specifically for veg/fruit/gluten free items and they can be popped through the dishwasher.
You are cooking a multitude of items, both gluten and non gluten in the oven. Put the GF items on a separate tray and place at the top of the oven to cook. This ensures that the GF tray doesn’t get any contamination from drips of non GF food cooking at the same time.
Either have a completely separate toaster for GF and non GF bread to be toasted, or, make use of toaster bags. Be mindful how you handle the bags & get the toast out of the bag. Remember they’ve been in a ‘gluten environment’ if it’s a non GF toaster, the outside of the bag is potentially covered in crumbs etc. We use a pair of tongs to remove the toast/waffle from within the bag.
Stirring – ensure you use separate spoons if you have GF & non GF items in pans on the hob. Ensure that you have disposed of any wooden spoons and change to silicone ones instead.
It’s hard in the beginning managing cross contamination, but with time, knowledge and processes in place that everyone adheres to, it is possible & becomes second nature. If your child is older they will learn to question what they are eating, could they read the label to double check its safe, ask if it has gluten in it. Younger ones learn from following what their parents are doing & learn that they don’t feel poorly any longer.
And when, a few months down the road, you see your child blossoming again, looking well and not pale, feeling ill or sick, or having a sore tummy, spending hours on the loo, then you will be glad of all the hard work you put into it at the beginning and know that the processes you have in place are working, keeping your child safe & well.