California Requirements for a Gluten Free Commercial Kitchen

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Female chef cooking in a restaurant kitchen
Female chef cooking in a restaurant kitchen (Image: Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images)

For decades doctors believed that a gluten-free diet was only designed for those with celiac disease. There has recently been a growing trend in the medical community of announcing conditions that can be treated using a gluten-free diet; autism, dermatitis herpetiformis and gastroesophegeal reflux disease (GERD) are a few of these medical conditions. The result of these discoveries has lead to more and more companies, restaurants and bakeries manufacturing gluten-free products. In order to be deemed a gluten-free commercial kitchen in California, a company needs to be certified by the Gluten Intolerant Group or other nonprofit organization. The regulations are the same nationwide; there are no specific requirements for California versus other states.

Prep Area

The preparation area of a gluten-free commercial kitchen is the most scrutinized part of earning a certificate. If the facility manufactures products that both contain gluten and those that do not, there is a high risk of cross contamination if the proper precautions are not taken. Kitchens should have two completely separate prep areas, one for gluten-free and one for regular products. Each kitchen area should have its own equipment for any piece that cannot be fully washed or is prone to absorb residue from items cut, cooked or baked in it. This includes commercial mixers, toasters, plastic cutting boards, stoneware and wooden spoons. Wheat flour can float in the air for up to seven days and amounts as small as 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten can affect a sensitive person adversely.

Cooking

Restaurants that choose to offer gluten-free meals need to take special precautions, especially during rush hours. Freshly-cleaned pots, pans and utensils should always be on hand for gluten-free orders. Gloves should be changed before beginning to prepare a gluten-free meal. The Gluten Intolerance Group is the primary source for obtaining a gluten free certificate for any commercial kitchen. The group works hand in hand with companies to teach them how to prepare and store food as well as how to keep their kitchens safe for gluten-free diners.

Storage

Dual-purpose kitchens need to have separate storage areas for gluten-free and regular flours to avoid cross-contamination through the air. Gluten-free flours are unbleached and organic, which makes them susceptible to expire quickly. Excess flour that is not in use or will not be used within 14 days should be kept in a freezer. The Gluten Intolerant Group will check ingredients and products regularly to ensure the parts per million of gluten is within the acceptable range (5 to 10 ppm).

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