Avoiding Cross-Contamination with Gluten

What Is Cross-Contamination?

Cross-contact (also known as cross contamination) is a process by which a gluten-free product comes into contact with something that is not gluten-free.

Importance of Cross-Contamination in Celiac Disease

A very important part of maintaining a gluten-free diet is carefully avoiding gluten as an ingredient in food, drinks and products that enter the mouth. Equally important is to avoid cross-contact of gluten-free foods with gluten-containing foods, as even tiny amounts of gluten can cause symptoms and damage your small intestine.

Cross-contact 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

Here are some ways to help you avoid gluten in many areas of your life.

Contamination of Gluten-Free Grains

Various grains and flours are naturally gluten-free, but many may be contaminated with gluten-containing grains. Learn more about avoiding cross-contaminated grains.

Am I Being Too Strict on My Gluten-Free Diet?

A Special Note About Quality of Life and Cross-Contact

The gluten-free diet is the cornerstone of therapy for celiac disease and the key to recovering good health after a diagnosis of celiac disease. Yet, the diet affects all aspects of life — including culture, social activity, and emotional needs — not only our need for good nutrition. Some studies reported poor quality of life, including fear, anxiety, and depression, for people with celiac disease due to the burden of the disease: cost, emotional loss, and the rigid nature of the diet. It is important to carefully follow the gluten-free diet; it is also important to maintain a healthy quality of life.11-16

If you worry that you follow the gluten-free diet too strictly, or you feel your social/home life or emotional well-being has been negatively affected by the diet, please share your concerns with your celiac clinicians. They can answer many of your questions and help you navigate the gluten-free diet with success.

Take-Home Messages

  • Cross-contact 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 many simple things you can do to help safe-guard your food.

  • Being organized and prepared will go a long way to helping you eat safely with minimal risk of cross-contact.

  • The gluten-free products market was valued at over 5.6 billion dollars in 2020 and is projected to reach 8.3 billion dollars by 202517. Gluten-free food items continue to increase in regular stores across the country.12 Choose items labeled gluten-free when you can.

  • If you struggle with the gluten-free diet (“Am I strict enough? Am I too strict?”) and your social or emotional life has been negatively impacted, please speak to your celiac clinicians who can help you navigate the gluten-free diet with success.

Resources on Cross-Contact