Managing Cross Contamination

Tips and tricks about the kitchen to avoid cross contamination with gluten.

Managing cross contamination

One of the problems with managing a gluten free diet is making sure that you don’t accidentally pick up gluten.

You might have bought gluten-free bread and be using gluten free fillings but pop your bread into a normal toaster and you could be adding gluten from the crumbs left by the last person who used it! It is easy for gluten to slip into foods without you being aware of it and getting to know when and how this can happen will make it easier to avoid. The problem is that even tiny amounts of gluten will have an effect on the bowel. This article looks at some of the places that cross-contamination can happen and how to avoid it.


Whether they are at home, at work or in your local sandwich shop, toasters areone of the main places that people pick up gluten without realising it. It is easy to see that crumbs get left behind in and around a toaster when it is used. If a toaster is used to make toast with ordinary bread, the crumbs left behind will be a source of gluten. Then, when you toast your bread, it can pick up these crumbs and so you end up eating gluten even though you are having gluten free bread.

Solution? You need a separate toaster at home that is only used for gluten free bread. If you are eating out, check if the restaurant has a dedicated gluten-free toaster – and that staff are trained not to use it for ordinary bread. Toaster bags are also great – you can just pop your bread into the bag and then use any toaster, anywhere.

Butter & Spreads

Have you ever seen crumbs collect on butter in a butter dish or in a tub of spread? If these are crumbs from gluten-containing bread then they are a problem if you are coeliac. If you share butter or spreads with others, then you run the risk of picking up gluten from these crumbs.

You need a separate butter dish or spread at home – well-labelled! If you are bringing spreads to work, then it is useful to pop them into a plastic container (e.g. Tupperware) so that someone doesn’t just reach for it by accident. Always label it well.

Jam, Marmalade etc.

As for butter, you can easily pick up crumbs from shared jars of jam, marmalade and peanut butter etc. at home. It is not always possible for you to have your own separate jars but you can make sure that everyone at home uses a clean spoon to take jam etc. from a jar, rather than dipping in the knife they just used to spread the butter on their (gluten-containing) toast.


Make sure you wipe down all surfaces before you start to cook – there might be gluten left behind by the last person to cook or prepare food in that part of the kitchen, especially if they have been baking. Be careful when you are stirring food!

In most families, all meals are made gluten free, simply because it is easier and perfectly fine for everyone. If you are cooking something that contains gluten as well as food for yourself, be careful about tasting the food to check seasoning (you will need to get someone else to do that for you!). Also be careful that you don’t stir one pot with a wooden spoon and then dip it into your own gluten-free pot!

Wash your hands after you handle gluten-containing foods. It is not unusual for someone to make a sandwich for the kids’ lunchbox and then go on to eat their own breakfast with gluten on their hands!

You don’t need to

  • Buy a separate fridge, freezer or oven - just keep them clean and don’t let any crumbs, food stains or debris collect.
  • Buy separate knives, forks or cooking utensils - just wash everything well in hot, soapy water or use a dishwasher.
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