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Gluten Cross Contamination vs Gluten Cross Contact

There is a lot of commentary with regard to cross contamination and what the right practices are to avoid having unwanted gluten sneak into gluten free foods.  Before I provide a brief overview on what the current guidelines are I need to establish one thing on the correct terminology. 

Cross contamination is in reference to bacteria, viruses and any foodbourne illness that is present in unsafe foods and transferred to safe foods. This transfer is through the simple process of touch, however is carefully managed through temperature, alcohol and pH control, hence why we store food in a fridge or freezer, why most foods are cooked and the origins of preserves, using salts and vinegar – all to reduce cross contamination from bacteria in order to avoid getting ill from eating rotten/contaminated food.

In contrast, cross contact is the more appropriate terminology to use in reference to allergen management. Unlike bacteria, allergens, which are protiens, not microscopic lifeforms,  can withstand greater temperatures, alcohol and different pH environments.  An increase in temperature can denature the protein, but does not always inactivate it – ie the allergen is still active and can cause a reaction, as their activity is from part of the protein, not the full protein, making its activity and management more complex.

Although 'cross contamination' rolls off the tongue so easily, the correct term to use is cross contact when referring to allergen management.

In my next post, I will explore the various hot spots in the kitchen for gluten cross contact.

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