I remember the first time I heard the term gluten-free. It was six short years ago in my Food Marketing and Cost Control class and my group was assigned to create a gluten-free dish. To be perfectly honest with you, I had no idea what the professor was talking about-I thought gluten-free was some fancy vegetarian term. Today, gluten-free is a term most are familiar with. Whether you have Celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or you follow a gluten-free diet for your own reasons, leading a gluten-free lifestyle can have a handful of challenges. Gluten is most commonly known for its presence in wheat, barley and rye products; however, gluten can also be found in many other types of food and products.
- Sushi, specifically the California roll. This is due to the imitation crab used in the roll. Many restaurants use imitation crab instead of real crab because it is much cheaper. Soy sauce is another gluten-containing condiment that could also be used with sushi.
- Scrambled eggs from restaurants. We know eggs are gluten-free; however, many restaurants add pancake mix to their eggs to give them a little extra fluff when they cook.
- Tortilla chips from restaurants. I know what you’re thinking-tortilla chips are made from corn and they are gluten-free! This is very true, but have you ever noticed how your chips are often served warm? Some venues throw their chips quickly into the fryer to give them a quick heat zap. This fryer may be contaminated with gluten-containing foods such as breaded chicken or shrimp.
- French Fries. This situation is similar to the tortilla chips. Potatoes are gluten-free but, some eateries may use the same fryer for both fries and breaded menu items.
- Pre-made seasoning mixes. Pay close attention to your chili or taco seasoning packets. Wheat starch or other gluten-containing fillers are often added to enhance texture or taste. There is a new wheat starch that is being created that has the gluten removed; however, the package must say “gluten-free” on it to be positive it is this new form of the starch.
- Deli meat from the meat counter. In general, most of your cold cut meats and cheeses are gluten-free, but not all of them (be cautious of your mixed meats like hotdogs, bologna, sausages). While your smoked turkey that you’re ordering may be gluten-free, the bologna that was used right before your turkey on the slicer was not. This unfortunately is where cross-contamination can occur.
- Flavored Chips. We know corn and potatoes are free from gluten, but the ingredients used to create mouth-watering flavors like” hickory BBQ” or “double cheddar” may not be. Always check the food labels!
Sometimes, we come across cross-contamination issues of gluten that do not even involve food:
- Play-doh. This one mainly applies to children with gluten issues. Some may argue if kids with celiac disease should even play with play-doh; regardless of what is practiced, the important thing to monitor for is proper hand-washing after playtime is over…especially if snack or mealtime immediately follows!
- Cosmetics such as baby powder, lotion and suntan lotion. For some individuals, gluten can be absorbed through the skin and cause adverse reactions. If you are experiencing symptom flare-ups but are following a strict gluten-free diet, consider cosmetics and toiletries.
- Envelopes. Sending a nice birthday card to Grandma? Make sure you have someone else lick the envelope or your use a damp napkin to help seal envelope. This can be a hidden source of gluten!
- Dog food. Wheat is a very common ingredient in most dog food brands. If you have a severe gluten intolerance or celiac disease, it would be wise to switch up your best pal’s food too! We personally use the grain-free Blue Buffalo brand for our beloved Aussie. If this is not an option for you, make sure you keep the dog food away from the kitchen and try to have another member of the family handle the dog food.
- Sub shops. While we know the buns are obviously off-limits, many people still enjoy gluten-free offerings at sandwich shops by ordering their subs wrapped in lettuce or perhaps a salad version of the sub. When you do this, you must ask your sandwich artist to change their gloves and wash their hands. This is because cross-contamination occurs on their hands from previously handling the sandwich made right before your order.