Coeliac disease and gluten intolerance are becoming more widely understood amongst the general population, but many people are still surprised by just how sensitive to gluten these conditions make sufferers. This is why cross-contamination often still affects people avoiding gluten, whether it occurs in restaurants, when eating at a friend’s house or even within their own homes.
If you are just starting a gluten-free diet, it might come as a shock just how little gluten is needed to make you feel ill. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to keep yourself safe and minimise the risk of gluten cross-contamination at home.
Create a gluten-free area
Accidental gluten exposure, or getting ‘glutened’, can easily happen if you keep foods containing gluten close to those that don’t. The best way to eliminate the risk of gluten ingestion is to make your kitchen entirely gluten-free, but if you share your home with others this may not be possible.
The next best thing is to create gluten-free areas, with everyone who lives with you doing their best to keep them that way. It might seem excessive at first, but to make your life easier it’s recommended that you store utensils and appliances away from those that have been in contact with gluten. You should also have your own space within the refrigerator for foods which are safe for you to eat, keeping them at a distance from those which aren’t. Everyone has different ways of minimising the risk, but here are some methods to consider:
- Purchase some non-porous chopping boards to be used only for the preparation of gluten-free foods.
- Purchase metal cooking utensils, as these are easier to thoroughly clean and are better at preventing cross-contamination than wooden utensils.
- Invest in your own toaster and ask those you live with not to put gluten bread in it.
- Buy stainless steel or solid aluminium pans without a non-stick coating. These can be used to cook both gluten and gluten-free foods, as long as they are washed thoroughly between uses.
- Try to use separate scrubbing brushes or sponges when washing up, storing these away from the rest.
Read the labels
When you start a gluten-free diet, it can be difficult to get used to food shopping as you have to be so much more careful about what you buy. Thankfully, UK law covers the use of the labelling term ‘gluten free’, which means that if you see a gluten free label, you can be sure that the food is suitable for your diet. Gluten free labels can only be used on foods which contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or less of gluten – this is the amount that is tolerable for most coeliacs to consume.
Your local supermarket will likely have a gluten-free section, where you can find specialist substitute products like breads, flour and crackers. When looking for naturally gluten-free products they will not always have a gluten-free label, so it’s important to read the ingredients list to look for specific grains. Avoid anything that lists wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt or khorasan wheat (kamut) as an ingredient.
You should also look out for ‘may contain’ labelling such as ‘may contain traces of gluten’ or ‘made in a factory also handling wheat’. These labels are used when the manufacturer has decided there’s a risk that the product could be contaminated with gluten, so use your discretion when dealing with these foods.
To avoid gluten cross-contamination outside of the home, you may choose to eat at a restaurant with a 100% gluten-free menu. M RAW on Victoria Street is a great option for upmarket dining, with a gluten free menu London including delicious food and none of the risk. To find out more call 020 3327 7770