Warning, Your Gluten Free Food Might NOT Be Celiac Safe

warning, your gluten free food might not be celiac safe Follow Me on Pinterest

Not Just A Fad

More people are realizing that they have a problem with gluten in food. As more consumers become more gluten conscious, the Gluten Free Food market has become very profitable. Lots of companies are taking advantage of what is sometimes considered a fad by including the words Gluten Free on their product labels even when they can’t guarantee that the product is 100% gluten free. No problem if you are just eating Gluten Free because it’s a fad. Not so great if you have Celiac Disease, an autoimmune condition that is triggered by gluten, or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, both which cause debilitating reactions if even the tiniest amount of gluten is consumed. 
For a perfect example of a company that was actively advertising Gluten Free despite gluten in the product, check out My Gluten Free Girlfriend’s post: Celiac Alert Sprouted Wheat in Athena Gluten Free Greek Yogurt Bars. Because of pressure from her and others in the Gluten Free Community, the gluten fee labeling is being changed. Yay for not lying to people!

Labels Can Be Misleading, Three Things to Look For:

When buying prepackaged products, you need to pay attention to three parts of the label; the Ingredients, the Allergy Information, and finally any sort of Gluten Free certification or the words GLUTEN FREE on the label.

1. The Ingredients:

Look for words that you recognize as real food, for example carrots, beets, potatoes or beef.  Make sure those food are gluten free. If you’re not sure, here’s a list of Gluten Free Foods, and here’s a list of the Other Names For Gluten. Occasionally, you’ll run into very vague words like:  “Natural Flavors”.  These can sometimes be from gluten containing sources, like barley. Some companies, like Kraft Foods, will list any allergens in brackets on their labels, like this:  Natural Flavors (wheat), some companies won’t.

2. The Allergy Information:

The allergy information lets you know if the product contains any allergens. If you want more information on the laws governing food allergy labeling check out this handy pamphlet from the USDA.

The following label is an example of a common gluten free labeling practice.
Notice the GLUTEN FREE in large letters? I sure did, when I was shopping, quickly, with a preschooler and a ten year old along for the trip, distracted, and trying to remember to finally pick up toilet paper. In fact GLUTEN FREE was the only thing I noticed about this label. I totally missed the Allergy information that states:
Made in a facility that may also process dairy, egg, tree nuts, WHEAT, peanuts, soybeans, fish and shellfish.
Not cool. This means that the manufacturers of this product can NOT guarantee that this product is gluten free because it could be contaminated by gluten in the factory. This means that it is NOT CELIAC SAFE. 

3. Gluten Free Information:

The example above says Gluten Free on the label. In this case it means that none of the ingredients contain gluten. It does not mean that they guarantee that there’s absolutely no gluten in the product or that the product is Celiac Safe.

Even better than Gluten Free on the label, is an endorsement from the Celiac Disease Foundation, the words, “Processed in a Gluten Free Facility”, or a product from a respected Gluten Free manufacturer like Bob’s Red Mill or Glutino. A good example is Gluten Free Bisquick, shown below:

gluten free bisquick label Follow Me on Pinterest

Look for these things: Gluten Free, Made in a Gluten Free Processing Facility and as a bonus, they sponsor the Celiac Disease Foundation

Final Thoughts:

If you have Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, your Gluten Free product might not be safe for you to eat. To completely avoid gluten, stick with non-processed foods that are naturally gluten free. If you are buying  processed foods, (because, hey, they’re so much more convenient, and we don’t all have time or desire to make our soda crackers from scratch, right?) be sure to Check the labels, stick with respected brands, look for products that have been manufactured in gluten free facilities.

Are you new to a gluten free diet or just thinking of getting started? Check out my handy guide: Go Gluten Free in 8 Easy Steps

10 thoughts on “Warning, Your Gluten Free Food Might NOT Be Celiac Safe

  1. Pingback: How to Safely Bake for a Gluten Free Friend | know gluten

  2. Excellent advice! I have Celiac Disease and it is very easy to forget to read the “fine” print. I get frustrated with people who are into this as a “fad” diet. It seems to discredit those of us who really have to eat a true gluten-free diet. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Thanks for dropping by Francie! It can be frustrating when people don’t take gluten free seriously, especially if you are very sensitive or have celiac disease. The fad isn’t all bad though, there’s now a huge variety of actual gluten free foods and you can find them in much smaller markets. But it does mean we have to be extra vigilant when picking up something that says “Gluten Free” on the label.

  3. Hi Jodi,
    It’s a big challenge to find food that are gluten safe combined with “Lactose-free”. I decided to make my own “Gluten-free milk by buying raw almonds from Costco. When I opened the package, I notice the allergen warning saying the almonds were processed in the same facility where other tree nuts, wheat, soy, etc. are also processed. Where can I buy bulk almonds that I’ll be sure will not be cross-contaminated? Thank you.

    Irene

    • Hey Irene, how disappointing! Silk Almond milk is gluten free, you should be able to find it in most North American grocery stores. You can order gluten free nuts from nuts.com if you want to make your own almond milk. You can also make rice milk by blending rice with water, vanilla and a little bit of sugar and straining it through a cheese cloth. Coconut milk (usually in the International Food aisle) is also a good gluten and dairy free milk alternative (especially in coffee! Nice and creamy!) Let me know if you need more info. :) – jodi

      • Thanks Jodi. I do buy Silk almond milk from the grocery stores in our area. I just thought I’ll make my own GF non-dairy milk to be sure of the ingredients. I’ll just continue to use the “Silk” brand from now on. I hope they’re not adding other chemicals or preservatives in their product.

  4. Hi Jodi, I was just told today by Doctor that I need to go Gluten Free. So I went to local health food store and purchased some things. One of them was Amy’s Gluten Free Cheese Burrito. After reading through your website (which is wonderful)….I decided to give another look at some of the items I purchased and found that Amy’s Cheese Burrito contains milk and is processed a facility that processed wheat & nut items. Why can the company say their product is Gluten Free if it contains milk??
    Thank you for all you wonderful information.
    Cathy

    • Hi Cathy! If you just need to give up gluten, it’s okay to have milk. Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, barley and a couple of other grains. As for being processed in a facility with Wheat, with the new FDA rules, any product that contains less than 20ppm gluten can be labled gluten free. Good luck!!

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