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Food Contamination and Coeliacs

Even if you are following a gluten-free diet sometimes, unknowingly, you can be eating gluten. This is what we call “contamination”. When you organize for a corporate picnic Sydney it should not always the food but also the decoration.

Contamination is a real threat to Coeliac sufferers and it can happen in many different ways. In our years of experience at FG Roberts, we have noticed some common mistakes and we’ve been working hard to raise awareness and improve the quality of life of Australia’s Coeliacs.

Avoiding Contamination is simple but it requires discipline, rigorous attention to detail and vigilance. Always read the labels and when or if you are in doubt, do not be afraid to ask if you are uncertain. Eventually, avoiding gluten becomes second nature.

Below are some further points to be considered:

1 – Never reuse oil which may have previously deep fried foods containing wheat or flour containing gluten, to prepare gluten free food.

2 – It is always advisable to use separate utensils, baking trays, bread and cake tins, cutlery, crockery, toasters, bread slicers, dough rollers, rolling pins etc. for preparing and serving gluten free foods. Thoroughly clean all benchtops and work areas when changing to gluten free food preparation.

No shortcuts or compromises are acceptable as even minute quantities of gluten can cause severe and immediate reactions in some individuals. Even when the impact is not so blatantly obvious with a Coeliac there is nearly always damage associated with the unintentional or accidental ingestion of gluten.

3 – Try to avoid chips in cafeterias and restaurants where they also serve other deep fried foods containing gluten, as these foods are usually prepared in a common grill or deep fryer and may contain traces of gluten.

4 – Never bake / roast food with and without gluten at same time. For example, baking lasagna and roasting a chicken in the same oven could potentially cause gluten contamination of the chicken.

5 – Do not toast / heat bread for a Coeliac in the same toaster used for normal bread as gluten containing crumbs may contaminate the gluten-free bread.

6 -Thoroughly wash any container where you will store gluten free foods in case you previously have stored gluten containing foods in them.

7 – Avoid drinking coffee from unknown places or brands. Poor quality coffee may be mixed with products containing barley and hence gluten.

8 – Pay attention to the lollies you choose. Some (e.g. glucose lollies) may have been dusted using wheat starch, which contains 100 p.p.m of gluten, to prevent them sticking together. Read the labels of such products carefully.

9 – When eating in restaurants you should err on the side of caution, selecting the simpler options. As a general rule you should avoid food with gravies, sauces, salad dressings and grilled or fried meats or seafood.

If unsure, talk to the waiter or chef to explain and make sure they understand your requirements. Keep in mind that:

– Gravies, sauces and dressings are often thickened using wheat flour or starch.

– The grilled and fried meats may have traces of gluten residues from prior meal preparations or after being seasoned or battered or crumbed with product containing gluten. Most batters and crumbings are wheat based. However there are gluten free alternatives.

10 – Japanese and Chinese food restaurants serve food with soy sauce. Soy, miso and tamari sauces may contain gluten.

11 – If you have Coeliac kids and they are going to a party, talk to the host in advance regarding the food being served or about your child taking their own food. If you can, suggest a menu with gelatin or popcorn. If unsure, feed the child before the party so that he or she can have fun without being hungry.

12 – When you try any new food you should be aware of any possible impacts on your body. You may be sensitive to ingredients other than gluten. e.g. lactose, fructose, nuts, eggs, sesame, salicylates, flavourings, preservatives, colourings and other potential allergens.

13 – Prescriptions drugs in the form of tablets or capsules may have wheat and hence gluten in their composition. Read the instructions, contact the manufacturer if in doubt, and if necessary talk to your doctor to find a replacement.

14 – Don’t fall for traps such as eating just the “burger” from a cheeseburger, or just the cheese from a pizza, or the meat and vegetables from a soup made with pasta/noodles. The contamination has already happened.

15 – Always contact the Customer Services department at the companies where you have questions or when you want to introduce new products into the diet of a Coeliac and have questions.

16 – Do not use malt vinegars or anything containing malt as these are made using barley and wheat and therefore contain gluten. Be wary of rice malt as this is often made on the same equipment as ordinary malt.

17 – Always check on colourings as some of these may be wheat based and may contain gluten e.g. some caramels.

18 – Always ask about hamburgers, sausages and other small-goods as they often contain wheat flour (and therefore gluten) as a filler and or binder. Sometimes gluten is used for the chewy texture it imparts. Fortunately many sausages etc. are now made gluten free.

19 – Watch for crumb contamination in butter and other spread containers where Coeliacs and non-Coeliacs are sharing the same spread containers. It is probably best if Coeliacs have their own spread containers.

We have heard of a couple where they each had their own pantry, toaster, butter dish and spreads etc. to protect the wife from any accidental gluten contamination. This is extreme but was effective as she was hyper-sensitive to the merest presence of gluten.

20 – Try to find manufacturers who are exclusively gluten free as this is your best guarantee of a safe and uncontaminated product: stick with and support reliable suppliers. Let them know popup picnic appreciate their efforts.

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