Gluten-Free Diet 101: Reading Labels

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Identifying safe and unsafe ingredients is essential for individuals on a gluten-free diet. However, this can sometimes be tricky, as manufacturers frequently do not label gluten on product labels.

The FDA Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act in the US requires products manufactured after January 1, 2006 to indicate the presence of any of the eight top allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat on the label. However, the absence of wheat on a label doesn’t mean a food is gluten free.

Celiacs should be wary of products labeled “wheat-free”, as they are not necessarily safe and may contain barley, rye, oats, or their derivatives.

Food manufactures are also not required to notify consumers of product ingredient and recipe changes, so it is important to always double-check product labels each time a food is purchased since the gluten-free status of a particular product may change at anytime.

It is important to always read the labels of prepared, canned , and packaged foods to be sure that no gluten hasn’t been added to them.

Gluten can also be found in non- food products as well! New gluten-free dieters need to be diligent about investigating many other frequently used products that could potentially contain hidden sources of gluten.

•    Bullions and Broths
•    Chapstick
•    Communion Wafers
•    Dairy Substitutes
•    Deli Meats
•    Dextrin
•    Gravies
•    Hydrolyzed Protein
•    Imitation Seafood
•    Licorice
•    Lipgloss
•    Lipstick
•    Lunch Meats
•    Medication
•    Modified Food Starch
•    Natural Flavors
•    Playdough
•    Salad Dressings
•    Seasonings
•    Spice Blends
•    Soy Sauce
•    Toothpaste
•    Vitamins

Take these 3 important first steps to staying safe from gluten:

1. Start a resource library. When shopping for a gluten-free diet, many grocery stores and chains publish frequently updated lists of the safe products they carry.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) offers a Getting Started Guide that lists popular retailers who offer a large selection of gluten-free products, free for download on their website.

You can also visit NFCA’s website to learn about safe food manufacturers and products that have been certified through NFCA’s Gluten-Free Resource Education Awareness Training (GREAT) business association.

2. Do your homework. Manufacturer’s websites often list the gluten-free status or their products, and have customer service hotlines to directly address your questions.

3. When in doubt, leave it out. If your unsure about whether or not a product is safe, it’s best to not purchase or consume it until you know for sure.

For more tips, information or to download NFCA’s Getting Started Guide, visit CeliacCentral.org.

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