Saturday, September 02, 2006

The hidden risks in your own kitchen

Once we’d confirmed that food was the main culprit in my health problems, the kitchen became a very important place. I could no longer eat out. It was too risky. There was no “Oh rats, I burned dinner. Lets order pizza.” A burnt dinner meant dinner was a little on the crunchy side. And maybe a little extra dessert.

We also learned the hard way how important it was to clean out the kitchen and start new.

At first, I thought it would be okay to slowly weed out the things I couldn’t use. I tried to foist oatmeal off on the kids, but kept getting “just a little” sick each time I made it. I made cookies for the bake sale, thinking it was fine as long as I didn’t taste any. And managed to drop them off at the bake sale before high tailing it home to be near my own bath room.

My husband made rice. He stirred it with a wooden spoon and served to me before seasoning his own. I spent the rest of the night hugging a heating pad.

What went wrong? The problem is simply a matter of *cross contamination*. When baking with flour, have you ever noticed those cute little white smudges that appear on nose and cheeks, or little flour hand prints where you wipe your hands? Well, a few flecks of flour never hurt anyone who can eat the end product. Even if the flecks end up on a clean glass, or in a water cup, or transferred back to your hands when you dry them off before grabbing an apple, they are harmless. But, if you have celiac disease…or are allergic to the wheat or the corn in the vitamins used to enrich the wheat, those flecks of flour are dangerous.

For the newly diagnosed, there are many dangers lurking in the kitchen. When baking, I used to often use the same measuring spoons in all of my dry ingredients. Flour and sugar get mixed in the bowl, why not use the same measuring cup? But when I went gluten free…my 5 lb bag of sugar attacked me. Last time I had made cookies, I’d measured out the flour, then dipped the cup into the sugar. Likewise…many spices contained traces of baking powder (which contains corn starch). All opened baking ingredients had to go.

Another potential hazard comes from seasoned non stick bakeware. The lovely flavor that cast iron skillets are prized for comes from the foods that have been previously cooked in them. And why can’t you scrub them with soap? Because if you do, the food prepared in them later will taste of soap. For the general public, it’s a matter of taste. For those with food allergies, it’s a health hazard.

Anything porous is dangerous. Ever look very closely at a wooden spoon? They have all sorts of lovely nooks and crannies. Perfect spots for grains of flour, particles of corn syrup, or a bit of baking powder to hide. And be released later into a big pot of soup or stew. Pre used wooden utensils must go.

A great guide to de-contaminating the kitchen (This was designed for people with celiacs, but works for other food allergies as well) is found here:

And a list of potential sources of cross contamination: (again, written with celiacs in mind, but a good basic guideline) :

And one more:

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