Keeping gluten away is a constant focus for those of us on a medically necessary gluten-free diet due to celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, dermatitis herpetiformis or other gluten-related illness. That’s why A Source of Gluten Cross-Contamination You NEVER Considered was top of my list in terms of articles to write as soon as I saw this egregious act in a restaurant.
Have you ever had trouble getting the ketchup to flow easily from the bottle on your restaurant dining table? I have! And we’re not the only ones… it’s a common occurrence and now, I realize that sluggish ketchup bottle may be a scary source of gluten (and other allergen) contamination you and I never considered.
In a nice, sit down family steak house during lunch I felt at ease. I’d dined there before with no issues, prepared in advance, knowing what to order and even spoke directly to my server at length about my needs in terms of avoiding specific allergens. She understood completely and assured me she had me covered. Settling into my chair and relaxing with a tall glass of water, I felt confident I had this under control. THEN a mom at a nearby table does the unthinkable.
To release ketchup from the bottle on the table, she shoved her knife completely into the bottle (Yes, I know this will break that air bubble and allow the sauce to flow, but she was in a restaurant, not her own home, folks.) Big deal? YES! Very big deal because she used the same knife she used to cut her kiddos burger in half.
A Source of Gluten Cross-Contamination You NEVER Considered
The entire bottle of ketchup was instantly and completely gluten contaminated. I have no shame in admitting I would have never, ever considered this as a potential source of gluten cross-contamination. Would you?
Needless to say, I didn’t use the ketchup on my table. I never will now that I saw the unthinkable gluten-contamination.
(Keep in mind, this likely happens in restaurant kitchens, too. For example, even if a restaurant offers gluten free buns for burgers, it is possible condiments like mayo are spread from a container.)
I was thankful to see the ketchup contamination. I thought you’d be grateful to learn about it, too. Now we need a solution to the dilemma of avoiding the ketchup (and other condiments) while dining out. I have several options that will help us stay gluten-free, at least when it comes to the condiments.
When dining out and in need of ketchup or other condiments:
1. Ask the server for individual packets, if available.
2. Invest in individual packets to take along like these mini ketchup bottles and packets from Minimus.
3. Take condiments from home in mini condiment containers. Most restaurants understand when we explain it is due to food allergy/health issues that we need to bring certain items along.
I hope this info is as meaningful to you as it is to me in my daily gluten-free life!