I’ve had this topic on my list of things to write about, but I just can’t take it any more. As a community, us celiacs need to stop saying the phrase “cross-contamination“ when we’re referring to a gluten free food coming into contact with gluten, thereby rendering it unsafe to eat.
That’s called cross-contact, people!
It’s not just semantics, it’s a matter of communicating in an accurate way what we’re trying to prevent. Using the wrong word can confuse kitchen staff, waiters, and anyone else cooking for you.
Any trained cook or chef is taught that cross-contamination refers to food borne bacteria and diseases. They are taught to properly handle foods like raw meats by storing them correctly and heating them to a high temperature to prevent food-borne illness.
So if you ask a cook, “You know how to prevent cross-contamination, right?” They might think that as long as they wash their hands and cook your food enough, they’re all set. If they use the same tongs/utensils, they might think it won’t matter if they used it for something with gluten in it as long as they cook it enough then the gluten will “burn off” or something.
Cross-contact occurs when a residue or trace amount of an allergenic or gluten-containing becomes incorporated into another food not intended to contain it, according to the FDA.
You’re probably thinking, “Fine, that’s the correct definition, but everyone says cross-contamination!” I thought that myself at one point as well.
I’d venture a guess that we are getting glutened more for that very reason. You have to talk the talk to be taken seriously. Being able to explain the difference between cross-contamination and cross-contact can help clear up people’s questions about how to safely prepare meals, and can help keep you from getting sick.
So, get with the program – start saying cross-contact. Even if it’s just to make me happy.