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Cross-contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come into contact with foods that contain gluten or gluten residue, like bread crumbs or pasta starch.

While a gluten-free home and kitchen is ideal, if you have a family, roommates or a partner, this can be difficult.

Here are some smart strategies that can keep you safe and healthy while maintaining a happy home…

  • Stock your refrigerator with duplicate condiments or choose squeeze bottles over jars to keep crumbs out of the mustard and mayonnaise.


  • Purchase separate containers of nut butters, jam and butter or margarine and label them with a printed label or brightly colored sticker.


  • Designate a basket or shelf in the refrigerator for gluten-free condiments to reduce the risk of confusion.


  • If you have the space, assign a cupboard specifically for gluten-free foods. When you’re storing gluten-free foods in the pantry, place them above products containing gluten in the pantry to eliminate any risk of cracker, cereal or pretzel crumbs contaminating your food. If you’ve color-coded items in your refrigerator, continue this labeling in the pantry.


  • Replace your cookware with stainless steel pots and pans or purchase new cast iron or non-stick cookware specifically for gluten-free foods. Wooden and plastic utensils, strainers, colanders and sifters are also potential sources for cross-contamination. Opt for metal or silicone utensils and purchase a second colander and sifter for gluten-free cooking and baking. Store these items in a different location or opt to purchase brightly colored kitchenware to make it easy to keep them separate.


  • Small kitchen appliances, including your toaster, toaster oven and bread machine can all put you at risk for cross-contamination. Purchase a separate toaster for gluten-free bread and waffles or opt for a toaster oven and separate trays. You can also pick up reusable toaster bags to keep your bread free of contamination. If you plan to use a bread machine for gluten-free baking, invest in a new one just for gluten-free breads.


  • Clean before you prepare your meals or snacks. Take the time to wipe counters and surfaces down with a household cleaning spray before you make a sandwich on gluten-free bread or slice an apple on the counter. If you’re preparing gluten-containing foods for friends or family, wash your hands well with soap and water before you eat or prepare your own food.


  • While you can keep some gluten-containing products in your home without risking your health, others have to go. Wheat, rye and barley flours can stay airborne for several hours, contaminating counters, cookware and other surfaces.

There’s no question that managing different diets in a single kitchen poses challenges, particularly when accidental cross-contamination leads to such unpleasant and unhealthy consequences. With time, these modifications to life in the kitchen will become second nature, allowing you to share meals with your housemates without worry.

Are there any other strategies or best practices that you successfully use that I’ve missed here? I’m sure we can all help each other out with some additional advice in the comments below!


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