Cross-Contamination issues for those with food allergies

Since going gluten-free a couple of years back, I noticed that my sensitivity to gluten has increased. It may or may not actually be an increase in sensitivity because before I went gluten-free, I always had a level of feeling ill every day. I just lived with it. These days, cross-contamination is my enemy.

I would always carry around candy or cough drops to suck on when I was feeling a bit “more” ill ever since I was young. Over the years, what I carried with me changed from Life Savers candy to Tic Tacs and now lozenges.

When I first went gluten-free, I couldn’t believe how well I felt. I had never felt that great! It almost felt like I was LIBERATED and ALIVE for the first time!

But then the problem comes when I accidentally eat something that either contained gluten or was cross-contaminated from handling. When that happens, it feels like I got hit by a ton of bricks, which would give that perception that my sensitivity had increased.

Nevertheless, the problem lies with cross-contamination issues at home (it’s not a gluten-free kitchen) and at restaurants. I have been to many restaurants where I have ordered a gluten-free dish and even told the waitstaff that I’m gluten-intolerant. Despite that, I have had reactions to gluten too many times.

On occasion, I would post negative Yelp reviews and write, “Why offer Gluten-Free options if you cannot serve them SAFELY?”

Gluten is everywhere. Gluten is in sauces and food when it’s actually not needed if made from scratch. If the kitchen has flour, it can get anywhere and everywhere.

On one trip to Costco, I walked through one aisle that contained the large flour bags. Walking through that aisle, I thought I smelled the flour and by the time I went around to the next aisle, I was already feeling ill. Now I completely avoid that aisle at all costs.

The owner of a dedicated gluten-free restaurant called Oceans and Earth Restaurant in Yorba Linda, California, stated that in his other restaurants, he couldn’t guarantee that gluten-free dishes would be completely gluten-free. This was the very reason he opened a dedicated gluten-free restaurant.

Part of the reason that I’ve seen and experienced issues is that many people don’t understand the concept of cross-contamination.

For example:

  • If you were to use a wok to cook a noodles dish made from wheat and then just rinse with water before cooking a gluten-free dish, you have now just cross-contaminated that dish.
  • If you have a pot of water to cook noodles and use it to cook both regular noodles and gluten-free noodles, those gluten-free noodles are no longer gluten-free.
  • If you reuse oil that was used to deep fry battered fried chicken, nuggets and whatnot, any dish cooked with that oil will contain gluten.

I have ordered food from cafes and restaurants where I would tell the waitstaff to please be careful to prevent cross-contamination. They would come back and say that there are no ingredients with gluten in my dish. Umm, that’s not what I asked for. I know there’s no gluten in eggs but can you please prevent cross-contamination. Next thing you know, I get sick. Ughh

I understand that my concerns are nothing compared to those whose allergies are much more serious and can lead to anaphylactic reactions such as peanut allergies. However, the issue, in general, is the same that people need to understand how the food, plate, and even table surface can be cross-contaminated and pose an issue for all of us.

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