14 March 2020

Crafting with dry pasta and play-doh safe for kids with gluten sensitivity

A study found that after five minutes of handling Play-Doh or dry pasta, negligible gluten transfer was found in children in a classroom situation.

Play-Doh and uncooked pasta are classic classroom craft supplies – but what if the kids in the classroom have coeliac disease?

Gluten in these substances is not dangerous, new research finds. As long as kids with coeliac disease don't eat what they're playing with, we can strike Play-Doh and raw pasta from the exposure risk list, the researchers said.

Other school supplies like papier-mâché and flour-based dough were linked to gluten transfer. But with handwashing and surface cleaning, residue was not detected on hands or play surfaces, the study found.

"We've coached families for many years to avoid kids touching any gluten-containing school supply, which can be challenging, especially for young children," said study leader Vanessa Weisbrod, executive director of the Celiac Disease Program at Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC.

Negligible transfer

"These findings make an easy distinction – school supplies that are dry and not sticky show very low gluten transfer, while those that were wet and pasty cling heavily to hands and table surfaces," she said. "In all cases, good hand hygiene and cleaning surfaces after using gluten-containing materials can prevent most gluten transfer."

For the study, her team tested five scenarios in which gluten transfer could be high enough to pose a risk for kids with coeliac disease. Among those with coeliac disease, products containing more than 0.002% gluten are considered unsafe.

After five minutes of handling Play-Doh or dry pasta, negligible gluten transfer was found, the study authors said in a hospital news release.

Gluten particle removal methods were also tested. Handwashing with water, handwashing with both soap and water, and thorough wiping with antibacterial wipes were all shown to effectively remove gluten.

"Whether you're protecting from bacteria or gluten, handwashing and surface hygiene are key," Weisbrod said in the news release. "As parents, we want to do everything we can to keep our kids safe and healthy, and this study definitely shows that the number one thing we can do is teach our kids to wash their hands."

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.

Image credit: iStock


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Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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