No, I am not talking about toxic waste dumping but thought I would focus today’s chat on cross-contamination.

As always, I can only speak from my experience so your mileage may vary.  When it came to gluten cross-contamination I was once extremely young and naïve.  I am still young but far less naïve, LOL!  Things like shared prep areas and deep fat fryers never really weighed that heavy on my mind.  I mean, in my mind I thought could such a “low risk” activity such as eating food that might have cavorted with gluten yield consequences of any degree?

Needless to say, there is a lesson to be learned here…though it actually came about as a result of my shellfish allergy.  I tend to scrutinize a menu to identify if a restaurant served shellfish.  I suppose I have some internal risk ratio that I calculate as to whether or not to eat somewhere.  Too much shellfish — Danger Will Robinson, no go.

Well one evening my partner and I decided to have delivery.  Living in NYC basically anything is possible.  We had (notice past tense) a favorite Gyro place that really is the best you will find.  Having reviewed their menu only one fried appetizer (calamari) could pose any risk and quite frankly everyone orders Gyros and fries from this place. Definite low risk in my crazy little world, right?  Wrong!

While I had indulged repeatedly over quite some time very successfully, I might add this would soon and abruptly come to an end.  The evening in question, I ordered fries as a treat (I normally had rice) and in the craziness that is our universe, another customer must have finally order the calamari just before my fries were cooked.  Food arrived and in a rush of hunger I snatched quite literally three fries from the container while plating the rest (as one does) and the fries no sooner hit my lip that it began to swell…and swell…and swell…and burst.  Yep, I had fallen victim to cross-contamination via shellfish and luckily did not need my Epi-Pen.  Honestly, I never thought of oil as the enemy but it certainly got me thinking and the gluten connection became apparent.  Now Mc Donald’s actually has gluten (as flavoring) in their oil – we all know that but think of your local tavern with the great fries that also happens to do a huge amount of chicken tenders business.  Just a bit of food, pun intended, for thought.

I no longer eat anything deep fried for fear of shellfish AND gluten (unless at a gluten certified restaurant or at home – check out my great chicken fried chicken recipe, shameless plug).  I think that restaurants should be ashamed to co-mingle different food types given the increase in all sorts of allergies.  Perhaps it is time to start a movement.

I know I learn new things everyday and we do learn from our mistakes but it is a bit different when your health is at stake.  So please keep cross-contamination front of mind, particularly when dining out.

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