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Cross-contamination is the process by which a gluten-free product comes into contact with something that is not gluten-free.

KEY POINTS:

  • Cross-contamination of gluten-free food with gluten-containing food can occur at any time. This includes from the field, to the processing plant, to the store or restaurant, and to your kitchen. It can occur anywhere food is stored, prepared, and served. 1
  • In restaurants, a menu item may contain only gluten-free ingredients. However, the food could be cooked in oil or on a cooking surface that had touched gluten. To learn more on dining out safely, visit Dining Out.
  • Even if small amounts of gluten do not cause symptoms, you can still damage the lining of your small intestine.

There are some simple ways to avoid cross-contamination of your gluten-free food.

  • In the store, always read labels and choose products, whenever possible, that are labeled gluten-free.* Companies that label their products gluten-free are more likely to make an effort to avoid contamination. 1 Check with the company if you are not sure about a certain product.

TAKE HOME MESSAGES:

  • Cross-contamination can occur anytime. The best way to avoid it is to understand how it can happen. Learn how to read food labels, and where food is grown, processed, stored, prepared, and served.
  • There are thousands of gluten-free food items in the United States. Many are found in regular stores.2 This number is always growing. Choose items labeled gluten-free when you can.*
  • Read Levels 2 and 3 more details on avoiding cross-contamination.

* It is not always necessary to choose a gluten-free label. It depends on the product. Example: the product is naturally gluten-free and has no likely contact with cross-contamination during its growth, processing, or transportation, such as a can of olives. Visit the Allergen Labeling section for more information on this topic.

References:

  1. Celiac Disease Toolkit. American Dietetic Association. Chicago, IL, 2011.
  2. University of Chicago Celiac Center. Accessed November 20, 2011.

Revision Date: 8-21-12 
Author: Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN 
Editors: Shelly Asplin, MA, RD, LMNT and Rupa Mukherjee, MD

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