The only gifts of food I accept and eat from others who don’t know how to prepare foods gluten-free that are safe for me are food items still in their original packaging, with the ingredients label present so I can see what it contains and what allergen statements are included.  The food item must be labeled gluten-free, be included on a gluten-free product list somewhere, or listed as gluten-free on the manufacturer’s website. It would have to be something I’d really want to eat before I would actually phone or e-mail the manufacturer. Here’s an example of a food gift that I did not feel I could consume safely.

My aunt can come up with some really fun and simple gifts for her extended family. This year, she bought some empty plastic ornaments from the store and filled them with hot chocolate mix and marshmallows. She decorated each ornament with a Christmas image of some kind and tied the top with a ribbon. The end result looked really cute.

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I asked my aunt what kind of hot chocolate mix she used. I knew that Swiss Miss was gluten-free. She said that she had used Swiss Miss. I’ve never had a problem with marshmallows. I’m sure a good number of people eating gluten-free could stop at that point and feel perfectly safe consuming the hot chocolate gift. I, however, could not. I started to think about the preparation. I’m sure she didn’t wash her hands after opening the bag of marshmallows and before taking out any with her fingers. I can’t imagine she would not have used her fingers to put the marshmallows through the hole in the top of the ornament. Also, she probably used a funnel to pour the hot chocolate mix into the ornament. Was the funnel washed in the dishwasher, or was it hand-washed in the sink, which was very likely contaminated with gluten from other dishes and the dish rag? I certainly didn’t want to sound certifiably insane by asking my aunt such questions. I decided to do the following with the ornament gift. I poured the hot chocolate mix into a small container to give to someone who could use it.

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I then washed out the ornament and let it dry in the dish drainer overnight. I shook it out the next morning to remove any excess water droplets. Later on, I found a hook, put the top back into the hole on the top of the ornament, inserted the hook, and put the ornament on the Christmas tree. The ornament was really cute, and I still wanted to use it.

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In conclusion, if you get a gift of food that you’re not sure is safe and don’t want to play Twenty Questions with the giver of the gift, give the food away and if there’s anything left you can use yourself, keep it and make use of it somehow!


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