The risky game of “gluten-free”

Nowadays the term gluten-free can be found everywhere. Visit your local grocery store and you can spot it on many products from crackers, to deli meat and even ice cream. But for those who suffer from celiac disease and other gluten-related sensitivities sometimes it can be misleading.

Gluten-free claims vary from product to product. There are those that are “certified gluten-free,” others that are “wheat-free,” and then there is the general “gluten-free” label. So what do all of these mean?

Well, if you do indeed suffer from celiac disease it is best to stick with the certified gluten-free label. This means that the product has been tested and contains zero traces of gluten, or a very small trace amount (typically 20 parts per million or less).

When it comes to wheat-free don’t get too excited. Despite being wheat-free there is a chance that the product still contains gluten. This is because gluten is found in other grains and not just wheat. With these products always be sure to read the label to make sure it is safe.

Finally there is the basic gluten-free label. This one is a bit tricky and calls for some more investigation. Despite claiming to be gluten-free there is still a chance that certain products may be cross-contaminated because of the facility that they have been made in. There are also some products that contain the words gluten-free yet the ingredients list states “may contain wheat.” Needless to say I try to avoid these as the risk is never worth the reward.

My general rule when it comes to navigating the different types of labels, always read the ingredients!


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