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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sticky Situation #4: Some words on Cross Contamination

Hey everyone!

I realized that I haven't written a post in forever, (thankfully my dear friend T was able to post one out for you all recently) and for that, please accept my little apology. :)

Anyway, I was struck with the inspiration of sorts to write about cross contamination because 1) We haven't really covered too much about cross contamination and its potential dangers since our blog's inception, and 2) My experiences at church prompted this topic.

In talking about the latter point, as I was sitting in church today and mass came to the point when the congregation was about to take part in the Eucharistic sacrament, I realized that all those, like me, who have gluten allergies cannot take part in eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ without risk of some serious gluten contamination. Firstly, for all those who don't already know, when Christians take communion, the communion wafer is made of wheat and the wine is, at least in Catholic church, poured in one cup that is communally shared. Many tend to take both the bread and wine and so when they drink the wine, the crumbs from the wafer may slip into the drink or even worse, they actually dip the entire wafer into the cup thereby contaminating it even further! So... I have now reverted to sitting in the pews patiently waiting until that part of mass ends.

Although this is unfortunate, I do know of the existence of gluten free communion wafers, so I should probably get my hands on some!

In talking about cross contamination, the key things to know are that...
1) Cross contamination is EVERYWHERE
2) Even if it is tedious, take precaution and if in doubt, do whatever it takes to ensure that what you're eating is free of contaminants before you put it in your mouth!

You may ask, "Okay, so if cross contamination is everywhere, how can I possibly avoid everything??"
The truth is, you can't. Since cross contamination IS everywhere, it is almost impossible to be 100% safe unless you're eating at home where you can control what you're eating and how it is prepared. So, let's start there.

1) If you're new to being gluten free, first, welcome to the community! Second, it is wise to change out ALL your silverware, glasses, utensils and pots/pans that you used to cook your previous gluten filled meals. All of those kitchenware items have a degree of cross contamination from the gluten, EVEN if you have washed it a bunch of times. To be perfectly safe, change them. However, if you are wary to throw out your favorite dishes and utensils (I can totally understand), you may choose to keep them and wash them with a NEW sponge in hot water and then run it again in the dishwasher. For me, I didn't have the heart to throw my dishware away and I also am not as sensitive as others, so I cleaned them to the best of my ability and I have not yet suffered any maladies (keeping my fingers crossed!).

2) If you're living with someone else or you live with your family whom is not eating gluten free, prepare some utensils and cooking ware that is dedicated just for you and inform your loved ones NOT to use it. Try placing it in a separate cabinet also, AWAY from their stuff. Distance is key :)

3) For all the shared food items, such as butter, jams and jellies, or anything that a gluten filled knife can contaminate, I would get a new jar for your own use or get a new jar and don't let your loved ones double dip! To be safe, I recommend getting your own jars/containers and marking it with your name.

4) Get your own small gfree refrigerator. No longer do you run the risk of your loved ones using your stuff when you can just store it all away in your own personal fridge! Now, isn't that nice! This is my personal favorite tip and most recommended!

5) Have a designated "gfree" cabinet or pantry shelf where you can put all your lovely gfree snacks and food goodies. Minimize the risk!

1) If you're planning on going out, but you know, since Kris told you, that cross contamination is everywhere, try to eat at home before heading out to a night with friends. It's safer, you run less of a risk of falling ill, and you save money! Now that's always a plus.

2) Not sure where your friends are heading to eat? Refer to tip 1 in this section or if you're in a rush, pack some snacks in your purse/bag and get filled up that way.

3) If you're not as sensitive, like me, eating out is okay once in a while. Always remember to double check with the chef how the food is prepared, the ingredients, and also, if they wouldn't mind to use new, clean utensils to cook your meal. I know this sounds like a huge deal (and probably somewhat of an inconvenience to them, but it's for your health, so take every precaution!) If they're accommodating, make sure to leave a nice tip to show that you appreciate their concern and that they took the time to make accommodations for you. Not all restaurants and chefs are nice, so if you happen to get a good one, he/she is a keeper!

4) Take your dining card with you when you eat. Here's a link for a dining card written in English: http://www.celiactravel.com/file_uploads/cards/english-gluten-free-restaurant-card.pdf
If you're traveling, you can also download cards in multiple languages. I'll post the link here: http://celiacdisease.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=celiacdisease&cdn=health&tm=9&f=10&su=p284.13.342.ip_&tt=2&bt=1&bts=1&zu=http%3A//www.celiactravel.com/restaurant-cards.html
I found that it is SUPER important to tell the waiter that you have a food allergy and you'll get really sick. For example, if you want to order a salad with no croutons, but you don't say why, they may assume that you're just watching your weight or simply dislike croutons. They won't take it that seriously and there may be risk of some croutons placed haphazardly in your salad, and then just picked out before they give it to you. (Trust me, this happens quite frequently!!). If you present them the card, it just saves SO much time and explanation on your part and probably less confusion on theirs.

1) A naturally gluten free snack is NOT safe to eat if it has been processed on the same machinery as wheat or gluten byproducts. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR LABELS!

What tips do you guys have to minimize cross contamination? Comment below or on our facebook page!

Also, feel free to let me or T know what topics YOU would like us to talk about. Drop us a comment or email us. We love to hear from you guys!! :)

Eat safely and have a wonderful week!