Dietician Says Biggest Grilling Threat Is Food/Utensil Cross-Contamination

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — You see it everywhere … “gluten-free.”

It’s the latest food trend. So how do you keep your holiday cookout safe for gluten-free guests?

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Having Celiac disease means 6-year-old Libby has to avoid gluten. It’s naturally found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. But as an additive, it’s in tens of thousands of products and even trace amounts can damage Libby’s digestive tract.

Avoiding it isn’t always easy.

“It’s kind of a heavy load at 6 to think about every time you eat something,” her mother, Andrea, told CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez.

Having a gluten intolerance means they have to be careful, but it doesn’t mean missing out on things like backyard barbecues. In fact, there are easy ways to make sure your gluten-free guests are safe this summer.

“A lot of meats that you cook, as well as vegetables and fruit, on the grill would be gluten-free; it’s just what you add to it,” said Mary Kay Sharrett of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

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Sharrett is a registered dietician. She said the biggest cookout threat is cross-contamination. For example, hamburger patties might look identical, but the one could be marinated in products with gluten. So it’s important they’re separated every step of the way.

“If you use a spatula to flip one and then you make a mistake and you use the spatula to flip the gluten-free, that also could be cross-contamination back and forth,” Sharrett said.

And heat won’t neutralize gluten so the grill either has to be cleaned — or cook the meat in foil. As for sides, there are plenty of traditional dishes that are safe.

“Fruit salad is usually gluten-free. Baked beans, fresh veggies are usually gluten-free. Most salad dressings are gluten-free, but that’s easy to look at the label,” Sharrett said.

Reading those labels is key because so many food products contain gluten. And here’s another tip: make sure you don’t share serving utensils. Even the slightest amount of gluten could cause a reaction in those with Celiac disease.

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