Gluten Contamination

What is gluten contamination or cross contamination?

Gluten contamination or cross-contamination occurs when gluten free foods come into contact with gluten filled foods or (wheat, rye, barley or malt). There is no simple way to avoid it but it can occur anywhere and everywhere (at home, restaurants, growing, processing and packaging).

Where can gluten cross contamination occur?

Growing: Some crops are grown next to wheat, rye barley and malt, or may be cover crops sharing the same soil nutrients.  An example of this would be oatmeal and lentils.  There are a few companies that sell gluten free oatmeal out there, Personally I still have a reaction to the gluten free oatmeal which can be normal for someone with Celiac’s.  Lentils are tricky but many company’s are now labeling on the back when they are processed or grown and cross contaminated with wheat.

Processing: This is a huge source of cross contamination.  Some articles out there believe that there is no safe grain for someone with full blown Celiac’s.  For example, lentils are often processed in a facility that wheat is also processed in, meaning lentils can be cross contaminated with gluten or have grains of wheat in the lentils during the packaging process.

Packaging: Lots of  facilities that package products are also packaging gluten throughout the day.

At Home: Sharing Utensils to spread butter on toast with gluten and then on gluten free food, pots and pans, cooking utensils.

Eating Out: Sharing cooking utensils, pans, cooking a burger patty on the same grill that buns were grilled on, and using fryers that also cooked gluten in them.

As you can see there are many sources of cross contamination for gluten to be in a your food.  Don’t let it discourage you, don’t give up, and keep trying and educating yourself!!!

Tips At Home

Prepare gluten free items on a separate surface from surfaces that gluten have been on

If the entire household is not gluten free, designate a gluten free counter and prepping space

Remember to fully wash utensils ad cooking supplies in between gluten and GF cooking

OR, prep and cook the gluten free meal first

Remember to really wash pots and pans, example:  pasta leaves a thick starchy residue on pots, make sure this is cleaned well!!!

Use squeeze bottles for condiments

Use the dollop method.  Always, use a spoon or knife in butter, peanut butter, condiments, jam etc… take a big glob and splat it onto desired dish.  Whatever you do, don’t do the normal glob spread and re glob.  Household shared items like butter and peanut butter will become quickly gluten contaminated!!! Or, just have your own gluten free condiments that are labeled.

The toaster likes to hide gluten, if you can have a gluten free designated toaster!!!

If possible have separate utensils and cook ware

Tips Eating Out

This is a tough one.  So many chefs and cooks out there are not educated on how sever and extreme the Celiac’s allergy is.  I have had a hand in the Food and Beverage industry for over 12 years.  I have had the privilege of working with chef’s all the way from The Four Seasons Hotel’s and Resorts to little starter restaurants, and even college dining halls.

At this point I prefer to eat in, unless its a dedicated gluten free facility/dining option.

I’ve had head chef’s at high end resorts that don’t know what gluten is in or not.  Menu options in their fine dining restaurant that have gluten in them even though they are listed gluten free.  And a bakery that cleans off the table surface to prep gluten free dessert options, while someone is cooking with flour right next to them!  BUT WHEAT FLOUR STAYS IN THE AIR AND ON SURFACES for 48 HOURS!!! Therefore it is gluten contaminated!!!  I’ve also had cooks and staff at this same company tell me that chicken broth is gluten free, and so are tortillas when they are often not.

When I was in Colorado I asked for a gluten free option at several dining options.  One of the responses I received was priceless. “We have oatmeal for breakfast and cous cous for a dinner substitute.  OK, but both of those contain or are cross contaminated with gluten.

Currently a Thai restaurant I am working for try’s their best to provide gluten free options, but I can honestly say that most of the food has a chance of being cross contaminated especially if cooked in the WOK, because the wok is seasoned.  Also, the cooks may be prepping appetizers, dumplings and wanton’s which all have wheat in them and then also prepping meats, and touching vegetables without washing hands.  See Review Here for Teton Thai.

Furthermore, I’ve ordered chips and salsa on menus that state they are gluten free, only to be super sick about hour later com to find out the chips get fried in a fryer that frys gluten.  Yet the staff wasn’t educated enough to know that it can’t be gluten free if its fried in a fryer that fry’s gluten…now that’s something to wrap your head around!

Personally, after being gluten free this past year,and eating in restaurants that I work in,  knowing and seeing that I’m still having health issues makes me understand how important it is to not cheat, and not eat food that is cross contaminated with gluten.  Let alone knowing that the same grill, and washing brushes and gloves are touching gluten and then being used to prepare a “gluten free” meal…. in my humble opinion, it just doesn’t cut it!!!

For you, I think it depends how sensitive you may be to gluten and what you are willing to risk based on your sensitivity level.

Don’t Be Fooled

What The Gluten Free Society has to say!!

Also, The Savvy Celiac says 1/3 chance of purchasing Gluten in GF labels.

Gluten Free Living confirms most grains aren’t Gluten Free to FDA standards!!

The FDA’s take.


Gluten regulations vary country to country, including requirements for processing, packaging and labeling.

Barley and Rye are not required to be listed in products even though gluten sensitive people have reactions to it.  Only the 8 major allergens (Peanuts, Soy, Wheat, Tree Nuts, Fish, Eggs, Milk, Shelfish) are required to be listed on packaging, due to these 8 allergens being responsible for 90 percent of reported food related allergic reactions.  For further reading see The Mayo Clinic.

Sneaky Cross Contamination:  Where to look!

Remember to really wash pots and pans, example:  pasta leaves a thick starchy residue on pots, make sure this is cleaned well!!!  And remember to wash the scrubby brush or sponge after, gluten can stick to these!!!

Don’t forget about the toaster.  A toaster used for gluten can NOT be used for gluten free items.  There are toaster bags out there that you can wrap your toast in and then toast so there is no contamination…but this is expensive!  Instead, try finding a toaster over and use multiple trays to trade out.

Where does your food come from? Was the food grown next to wheat, rye or barley crops, or maybe a cover crop for one of these crops.  This is why oatmeal is considered a no – no for people who have gluten intolerance or celiac’s.  Oatmeal is often grown next to or near gluten filled crops.  Also, it is often processed on the same machinery.

Restaurant Fryers:  Ask if the food has been fried or flash fried in a fryer that fry’s gluten for example: chicken tenders, egg rolls, wantons.  I have run into foods such as tortilla chips, Mexican rice, and black beans, and tofu, that have all been flash fried in a fryer that is used for gluten.  If you have Celiac’s it will make you incredibly sick!!!  Even if you have a minimal reaction it can cause damage on the inside.

Don’t trust a pizza shop or a bakery that says they are gluten free. Many company’s list items as gluten free but cook them on the same baking sheet with products that contain gluten.  Also, wheat and flour particles stay in the air for about 48 hours.  Therefor, if you are very sensitive your food will be contaminated and dusted with floating flour particles.  Perhaps this sounds extreme but its the reality of people who are highly sensitive!

Check out  Jake’s Story Here

This sounds tough, can I Cheat!!!  The answer is NO.

7 Responses to “Gluten Contamination”

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  2. Blue Horizon Salmon Cake Bites | Gluten Free Blog:

    [...] Blue Horizon Wild make a salmon cake bite that is gluten free, wheat free, no preservatives, antibiotics or hormones.  The ingredients on the label hold true to gluten free standards.  One word of caution listed in the ingredients is “natural flavoring”.  According to Gluten Free Cooking for Dummies by: Dana Korn and Onnie Sarros Gluten can be hidden into the following ingredients:  Brown Rice Syrup, Fillers, Flavors and Natural Flavorings, Spice Blends, Stabilizers, Starch including pharmaceuticals, and brewer’s yeast.  Korn and Sarros state that the U.S. FDA: Code of Regulations are not sure if the list includes gluten, but all of the items may contain trace amounts or be gluten – contaminated. [...]

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  4. Gluten Free, Forage Bistro | Gluten Free Blog:

    [...] an allergy freak, Forage is my go-to restaurant in town.  Forage provides minimal to no risk of gluten cross contamination.  Most dishes are prepared on a pan to pan request, changing out cook ware for almost all [...]

  5. Christina Green:

    I had bronchitus for what seemed like an almost constant period of time for about 6 months. I was sick all the time, felt like crap in general, and always had a sinus infection with MAJOR blockage, terrible sore throat, and fluid in my lungs. After months of taking antibiotics on and off and still not getting completely better, finally, my regular doctor sent me to an allergist. It changed my life.

  6. Is wine gluten Free | Gluten Free Blog:

    [...] Vino, claims that wine is gluten free, however there is a small possibility for cross contamination.  View More [...]


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