How to avoid gluten

To make it easier for you to avoid gluten, some food labels include an allergy panel. This will tell you if a common allergen is present. Gluten containing ingredients are often listed, along with things like milk or nuts.

Don't you wish all manufacturers were this helpful?

Products that don't include such information are more challenging.  Gluten can hide itself in unfamiliar terminology. If you are new to the gluten free diet you may not yet recognize these ingredients. The table below gives some examples of things to watch out for.

Avoid gluten in disguise

Wheat flour Rye flour
Flavourings (suspect even if it says natural) Fillers
Edible or Food Starch (Maize starch is fine) Seasonings (suspect)
Binder Rusk
Bran Wheatgerm
Wheat protein Wholegrain
Thickening Wheat starch
Glucose syrup (often made from wheat) Malt
Matzo meal Spelt (an old form of wheat)
Brown rice syrup (often made from barley) imitation seafood (such as crab sticks)
HVP (Hydrolyzed vegetable protein) TVP (Textured vegetable protein)
Caramel color Dextrin


Check with the Manufacturer

So what do you do if a product lists a suspect ingredient?

  • Avoid it in case?
  • Take the risk?

Your safest option is to try phoning the manufacturer for more information. Tell them you need to avoid gluten and ask if the product is safe for you to eat.

You may be lucky, and get a knowledgable person on the other end of the phone. But this is not always the case. Sometimes the manufacturer doesn't know if a food is safe for you to eat. How come? If they use bought-in ingredients they may need to go back to their supplier to find out for you. Some companies are happy to do this, others less so.

You may need to repeat this exercise, as the ingredients in foods change! Something that is safe now, may not be in 6 months time. Always check labels for such wording as “new recipe”  just in case.

The Manufacturing Process

OK, so you have read the list of ingredients and all seems fine. Nothing in there that should cause any trouble. But then you notice some smaller print at the bottom of the label. 

"Produced in a factory also handling milk, gluten, egg and nuts."

"What should you do now? Does this mean the food is unsafe?  Removing every trace of gluten from equipment used for other foods can be difficult. My personal preference is to avoid foods with such labels. 

There is another thing to be aware of in the manufacturing process.

Some foods are sticky. Wheat flour helps to keep them from sticking together, or to the machinery. As this is not classed as an ingredient, it is not required to include it on the packaging. The quantity present in the food is minimal, but can still cause issues.

Talking of quantities...

Even if a normal sized candy bar is gluten free, don't assume that a smaller bar will also be safe. Believe it or not the ingredients can differ! Always read the label.

What happened to me!

Let me end with a personal story.

OK, so you have read the list of ingredients and all seems fine. Nothing in there that should cause any trouble. But then you notice some smaller print at the bottom of the label. 

"Produced in a factory also handling milk, gluten, egg and nuts."

What should you do now? Does this mean the food is unsafe? 

Removing every trace of gluten from equipment used for other foods can be difficult. My personal preference is to avoid foods with such labels. 

There is another thing to be aware of in the manufacturing process.

Some foods are sticky. Wheat flour helps to keep them from sticking together, or to the machinery. As this is not classed as an ingredient, it is not required to include it on the packaging. The quantity present in the food is minimal, but can still cause issues.

Talking of quantities...

Even if a normal sized candy bar is gluten free, don't assume that a smaller bar will also be safe. Believe it or not the ingredients can differ! Always read the label.




  

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