I had a great conversation with Joel Schaefer, (Culinary Development & Special Dietary Needs, Walt Disney World Food & Beverage) at the Gluten Free Summit last weekend. He explained to the participants that there is a difference in the food industry between “cross-contamination” and “cross-contact” and that what happens with Gluten is NOT contamination.
Contamination refers specifically to bacteria, because if something is “contaminated” it can be sanitized by burning (haven’t we all heard a kitchen manager say “the fryer gets REALLY hot!”) or by really hot water. It also refers to something that takes TIME to grow, like a bacteria.
Contact refers to anything that is even TOUCHED by a gluten-containing food. And it is actually taken more seriously. You can’t “un-contact” something, like in a fryer. So they get the idea that you can’t even TOUCH those two things together. (Well, hopefully they get the idea).
Basically, if we want restaurants to understand what we are saying, then WE need to speak THEIR language! So keep in mind that when they think “contamination” they are thinking “germ” and that means “get it really hot” or “burn it” and it will be ok. But we all know that is not true!!!
So when you are talking to someone about the possibility of the transfer of gluten, be sure to say “Cross-contact” instead of (or at least WITH) “cross-contamination.”