Q: Should I ask my family and friends not to bring crumbly cookies, bars and crackers to gatherings at our house? I feel as if the longer I am gluten free, the more sensitive I have become. Twice in the last couple of months, people have brought very, very crumbly cookies to get-togethers at our house. I do the cleaning up after the parties, and within a few days both times I found myself experiencing my typical skin reactions. I know I'm not supposed to really react if I don't actually eat the food, but it seems likely to me that cross-contamination would happen after the table is covered like crazy with cookie crumbs. I haven't yet addressed the issue of outside food in our house, so I’m not sure how to deal with this, or if I’m over-reacting. I hoped to get some feedback before I talked with people. I thought of giving people some guidelines of what they can bring, if they want to be thoughtful and bring snacks to share, but it’s not always easy to talk about this issue with people.
There is definitely a risk of cross-contact with gluten with very crumbly foods. You are correct that you cannot get sick from it touching your skin. However, there is a risk of crumbs getting into your food if you eat or serve gluten-free foods around crumbs from gluten containing foods. In a study, researchers found that some patients with celiac disease reacted to as little as 10 mg a day of gluten - that is just a few crumbs! (1)
I usually ask people to bring gluten-free foods to my house so everyone can enjoy them, or if they bring in foods containing gluten I will ask them (very nicely) to keep them away from other foods and be very mindful of the fact that just a few crumbs can make me sick. Most people do not realize that such small amounts can make individuals with celiac disease sick, but after being told this, I have found that people are generally very understanding and receptive to bringing gluten-free options.
I think you have a great idea of giving your friends and family suggestions of what to bring. It is more fun if everyone can enjoy the food and stay safe.
Some suggestions you can ask your friends to bring:
Fruit and veggie plates (make sure the dip is GF)
GF crackers and cheese
GF chips and salsa
1: Catassi C, Fabiani E, Iacono G, D'Agate C, Francavilla R, Biagi F, Volta U, Accomando S, Picarelli A, De Vitis I, Pianelli G, Gesuita R, Carle F, Mandolesi A, Bearzi I, Fasano A. A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to establish a safe gluten threshold for patients with celiac disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan;85(1):160-6. PubMed PMID: 17209192. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17209192
Reviewed and updated October 5, 2022.
Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.