5 Tips to Avoid Cross Contamination

I love food.  I love new tastes, textures, combinations of flavours, restaurants, cafes, Deli’s, local produce and foods from around the world.  But what I love most are the social interactions that happen around food.  Memories from childhood are scattered with events and activities in which

(1984)

food features; birthday parties with cheese and pineapples on sticks, the time we went to France and Dad ate snails, eating potatoes out of a tin and being allowed Kellogs variety packs when we went camping, Yorkshire Puddings being served as a starter when we went to Nanas for Sunday Dinner, walking into family parties in working mens clubs balancing trays of egg sandwiches, pork pies and a Black Forest Gateaux .  Countless picnics in parks, BBQ’s at friends, fish and chips on the seafront.  It evokes memories and emotions and brings people together.  Mum often says that Nana Chester was at her happiest with “a house full of folk”, and when the family outgrew the house – the Boxing Day party moved from their 3 bed-semi to the

church hall.  The Christmas Dinner was dished out from the serving hatch and at tea time the buffet included those infamous home done pickled onions, Cheshire cheese (from Chester market) and

Jacobs crackers.  I worry that Peggy won’t feel like that about food.  That she’ll see it as a problem or something in her life that causes her damage.  That’s why I continue to try new recipes and products – because for every 10 epic fails in the kitchen (the avocado chocolate cake springs to mind) theres one thing that she loves and I can’t tell you how much enjoyment/relief/happiness I get from seeing her enjoy food!  This week she ate ‘Serpentine Corn and Rice’ pasta mixed with Pesto and I cried when she finished the whole bowl!

It struck me the other day how terrifying the wording is around catering for a gluten free person (especially children).  Words like ‘Cross Contamination’, ‘Poison’, ‘Long Term Gut Damage’ crop up time and time again.  It’s true, being accidently ‘gluten-ed’ by some poor unsuspecting, good willed chef or host can cause immediate side effects and long term internal damage to the gut – but terrifying language and fear put to one side – I take my hat off to those beautiful friends and family in our lives who are prepared to ‘have a go’ and invite us round for meals and parties.  I love that they call up to double check what Chris and Peggy can eat – because they want us to be involved and continue being part of their social events – even if that means buying in or preparing ‘special’ food.  It makes my heart swell and brings a tear to my eye that people care about us so much that they put that effort in to ensure we’re included.  So this list of tips to prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen is not necessarily for those families dealing with Coeliac Disease on a daily basis (although if it helps you too then that’s brilliant) but it’s aimed at those friends, extended family, neighbours, the parents of kids at school who cater for friends with coeliac disease – who are being bloody brilliant by trying really hard to ensure everyone’s involved (but are a bit afraid of killing them at the same time 😉 )

 

1; Wipe down surfaces and chopping boards

 

 Washing up with warm water and washing up liquid removes gluten (as do dishwashers).  There’s no need to use separate dishcloths/sponges (I tend to rinse off bubbles etc under a running tap

Reg…the reason anti-bac spray was invented

after washing).  We use an anti-bac spray at home on work tops (something we’ve always done thanks to Chris having a pretty low immune system and me freaking out that the kids sneezing all over the place and touching worktops with post nursery grubby hands might result in ANOTHER stomach bug).  If baking I tend to wash my trays, pots and pans out too before starting (some of my baking trays were last used circa. 2012 – not sure that any traces of gluten would remain that long but I wash them to get the dust off mainly)

 

 

 

2; Order of assembly

 

 It’s impossible for us to have a totally gluten free kitchen as most GF products are too fibrous for Chris to handle.  So I tend to do the GF food first then the gluten filled food after.  For example, if we’re going out for a picnic I’ll prepare Peggys packed lunch, seal it all in my extensive range of Tupperware (show off) and stash it in her own ‘Batman’ lunch bag before beginning the packed lunch for the rest of the family.  BBQ’s are another one where order of assembly is handy – make sure any food which is GF goes on the BBQ first

 

3; Toaster Bags

 

I know some families have separate toasters to ensure that the gluten free products don’t run the risk of being contaminated by gluten from regular products, however we have 1 toaster and use toaster bags for Peggys bread.  They’re also handy if staying over somewhere…less bulky than packing a toaster anyway

 

4; Check Packaging

 

Honestly, the only time I ever checked packaging pre-diagnosis was to see what the alcohol percentage was on wine (10% and below = mid-week, 10% and above = weekend).  I’m all too familiar now with ingredients lists.  Anything containing allergens such as wheat, egg or nuts is in bold or uppercase text (FYI look out for Barley, Rye and Wheat as these are all no-go’s for coeliacs) ;

 

It’s also worth checking out the ‘Allergy Advice’ bit underneath the ingredients list as occasionally products have been made in a factory which contains gluten sources….so avoid these too.

 

 

If, like me, weekly food shops involve dragging a 2 year old around and bribing them to sit in the trolley using a variety of sweets/toys/i-phones/promises of trips to feed the ducks, you’ll just want to get it over with ASAP.  This app is brill; Scan Gluten Free UK.  By scanning the bar code it tells you if a product is Gluten Free or not.  The basic version is free or you can upgrade to the full version for around £4.   

 

 5; Condiments

 

We keep a separate butter and jam for Peggy so that we don’t use the same knife to butter regular toast as we do GF toast.  I have started to slip the individual butters and jams in café’s and

restaurants in to my bag to take camping with us so I don’t have to fill the cool box with 2 of everything….obvs I’m not condoning stealing…….

**Heinz Tomato Ketchup and most super market brands are GF so don’t feel you have to buy the branded (and usually more expensive) ‘Free From’ version **

 

If all else fails Pizza is a pretty safe bet.  Most kids love pizza and for individuals on a low fibre diet like Chris  a plain and simple thin crust Margherita is a safe bet.  So

if we’re invited somewhere for dinner I usually suggest (or take) pizza.  A GF one for Peg (no ‘weird green bits’ – her words) and regular ones for the rest of us.  It’s worth noting that the GF pizza needs to go in the oven on a separate tray and I usually put Peggys on the top shelf so nothing can drop on top of it from the pizzas above.  Once they are cooked, slice the GF pizza first (and dish out) before slicing and serving the regular ones so as not to cross contaminate.      

 

This article has been inspired by a document on www.coeliac.org.uk around Cross Contamination

 

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