Tips for Avoiding Gluten Cross Contamination

Gluten Cross Contamination

As restaurateurs and cafe owners our need to be aware and responsive to customer concerns has never been greater. Food allergies, different diets and an increased focus on health and wellbeing means our very business depends on us meeting and exceeding customer expectations, and in the process safeguarding and adding positively to our reputation. Given social media and the rise of the online review, one slip up can spell disastrous outcomes across numerous forums. So, when we talk specifically about offering gluten free menu items, how can we ensure that there is no gluten cross contamination, that the raw products we buy are actually gluten free and that any pre made items do not contain gluten.

Tips to Avoid Gluten Cross Contamination

There are steps you can take, and while mostly commonsense, these steps will take some leadership and ongoing management on your behalf. As the business owner, the buck stops with you. So here are some handy hints and tips to avoid gluten cross contamination in your cafe or restaurant.


Firstly, buy from reputable suppliers. Let’s say that one again. Only buy your gluten free products from a supplier who can guarantee that nil detectable gluten is present. Clean, quality ingredients is the starting point for successfully offering gluten free food on your menu.

Before your first order is placed ask what measures the supplier has in place to ensure gluten free management practices are adhered to within their manufacturing and supply chain. This is due diligence 101. Ask what allergen control protocols they have in place. Request a PIF (Product Information Form) or Specification Sheet which details their allergen control.


Do the products come from a 100% dedicated gluten free facility? Is a sample from every batch sent to a lab to be tested for allergens? Are items provided with a complete ingredients list and product allergy statement? This information should be available from your food distributors or on the suppliers website, but of course you can ask for it to be emailed to you if you like, for your own records. Any hesitation in being able to supply this, means you might want to think twice before placing an order for that brand of ingredient.

You will know from the response whether you are dealing with a professional gluten free goods supplier, or someone more casual. Err on the side of caution. If the answers you receive are vague, incomplete or unable to be substantiated, then buy from somewhere else. Once you are satisfied with the responses and feel comfortable placing an order, then the next step is being ready at your end to receive the gluten free goods.

Being too casual when handling gluten free raw materials is an easy trap to fall into. Perfectly great gluten free goods only stay that way when you handle them properly once delivered. Be sure that gluten free supplies are not contaminated in your own workplace. Consider devising a few effective workplace practices to ensure gluten free product, stays gluten free.

On arrival be sure to check all labels of incoming goods. There can be mix ups at distribution points, and human error is real, so check and recheck that your labelled goods received match the order you placed. If something is out of its original packaging, then a quick call to the supplier is in order. Ask why and then ask for email confirmation that the product received was as ordered.

Once that check is performed, then give a thought to storage. For dry goods, one simple method is colour coding. Use different coloured storage containers, or at least ensure the lids of the containers are different, for gluten free flours, mixes and add-ins. As an extra step, think about using round containers for non gluten free products and a different shape, like square containers, for gluten free products. Ensure that all gluten free items are stored away from their ‘full of gluten’ counterparts. This means physical separation, like in a different area of the kitchen or at least on different shelves.

Flour is an easy one to mix up. Both products look the same, have similar textures and do the same job. So ensure your gluten free flour is well labelled as such, kept separate from regular flour and preferably in a different coloured and different shaped bin.

Make sure bulk dry good supplies have their own dedicated scoops too. Cross contamination from spoons, scoops, baking trays, bowls and utensils is real. Again, avoid this by having a set of dedicated equipment that is used to create your gluten free delights. It might seem like overkill to have separate utensils, but really it’s a good dose of caution now that will pay off in the long run. After all, we don’t want any finger pointing or blame from an upset customer who has unknowingly consumed a contaminated almond friand. With your gluten free baking items it’s a good idea to colour code them too. Draw a big GF on the underside of tins and trays. Keep them with the gluten free baking supplies and out of the general storage area.

Be sure to advise your kitchen team and floor staff as to why this is so important. It’s an easy to understand concept, but an effort has to be made to ‘stick to the rules’. Everyone loves a short cut, but contaminating gluten free products is a short cut to nowhere good. So you as the owner and manager need to be sure every one of your staff understands the gluten free protocols and will work within them.

With premade gluten free items care also needs to be taken. Separate storage containers are a must. We can’t pop our gluten free muffins in with our regular muffins, no. So, both back of house storage and any display storage has to be well managed.

Keep gluten free products on a dedicated shelf in the fridge and freezer. Make sure containers are labelled with non-removable ink. In BIG writing. Do not take shortcuts and share container space with non gluten free products. Some coeliacs are so sensitive that even a few crumbs of gluten filled product can send them into a spin and cause major health issues. Plus, no doubt this kind of experience would cause reputational damage to your business, as we know unhappy people tell many other people about their misadventures.

When using front of house food displays, like a refrigerated cabinet or jars, the same applies. Gluten free food cannot go on the same plate as the full of gluten product. It is a good practice to dedicate one shelf, preferably the top one, of your cake cabinet to the gluten free products. Crumbs don’t fall up, so by doing this the gluten free products cannot have accidental crumbs fall onto them from above. Ensure there are separate serving tongs and cake lifts used when plating up the gluten free product. Just in the same way we have to keep our decaf coffee separate from the caffeine filled coffee, so we need to keep our tongs used for regular products away from gluten free products.

With biscuits kept in jars, obviously the gluten free products need their own jars and lids. Plus their own serving tongs. Label both so no mix ups will occur. Once empty, the biscuit jars should go through the hot wash cycle to ensure any residue is removed. Tongs should be washed daily. Once done, then the new biscuit supply can be popped in any clean jar and labelled appropriately.


So with a little bit of research, diligence, preparation and good food handling practices you can keep gluten free, gluten free, with confidence and certainty avoid gluten cross contamination. Here’s to happy gluten free customers spreading great word of mouth recommendations about your fabulous establishment and it’s gluten free goodies.

Want more information, well then you’ll find some further handy tips for your business at:

What’s your tips to prevent cross contamination? Drop us a note in the comments section below to share your thoughts.

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