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It is “Cross-Contact” NOT “Cross-Contamination”

August 21, 2007

I had a great conversation with Joel Schaefer, (Culinary Development & Special Dietary Needs, Walt Disney World Food & Beverage) at the Gluten Free Summit last weekend. He explained to the participants that there is a difference in the food industry between “cross-contamination” and “cross-contact” and that what happens with Gluten is NOT contamination.

Contamination refers specifically to bacteria, because if something is “contaminated” it can be sanitized by burning (haven’t we all heard a kitchen manager say “the fryer gets REALLY hot!”) or by really hot water. It also refers to something that takes TIME to grow, like a bacteria.

Contact refers to anything that is even TOUCHED by a gluten-containing food. And it is actually taken more seriously. You can’t “un-contact” something, like in a fryer. So they get the idea that you can’t even TOUCH those two things together. (Well, hopefully they get the idea). 

Basically, if we want restaurants to understand what we are saying, then WE need to speak THEIR language! So keep in mind that when they think “contamination” they are thinking “germ” and that means “get it really hot” or “burn it” and it will be ok. But we all know that is not true!!!

So when you are talking to someone about the possibility of the transfer of gluten, be sure to say “Cross-contact” instead of (or at least WITH) “cross-contamination.”

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5 Comments
  1. GfGirl permalink
    August 22, 2007 2:02 am

    I didn’t know that! I will have to keep that in mind when I am talking to people when I go out to eat.

  2. October 16, 2007 4:00 am

    That is really interesting – I didn’t know that either. Goes to show that vocabulary is very important.

  3. Father of a very allergic dude permalink
    August 12, 2008 12:10 pm

    Thanks for this clarification, it makes a lot of sense and helps me better navigate the tricky world of externally-prepared food (and sometimes tricker world of ‘raw’ foods with undisclosed dairy inclusions and other scary things).. I’d add to this that it’s probably applicable to all food allergies and not just gluten – the mere contact is enough to transfer enough protein to seriously harm someone..

  4. August 27, 2009 8:59 am

    Wow! I’ve never heard this explanation before. Thanks for sharing the conversation you had with Joel. In my mind, though, it’s still “contamination” because gluten is evil! :-) It rates right up there with those little bacteria, germy bugs that contaminate stuff, you know. Thanks for your informative site & articles. They are much appreciated!

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