Are canned foods gluten-free?

I filmed a story on my Instagram the other day where I showed you how I try to keep my gluten-free grocery bill affordable. In my story, I showed you my pantry which featured a lot of canned beans and vegetables which lead to a lot of questions about the safety of canned foods for people with celiac disease. This inspired me to write this post to answer your questions on if canned foods are gluten-free and celiac-safe.


Are canned foods gluten-free?

The answer? It depends on what kind of canned food we are talking about. I like to break canned food down in two 2 categories when talking about their safety:

Mixed Canned Food

This is any canned food that is a mixture of ingredients. Think soups and sauces.

It’s safe if it has a “gluten-free” certification/claim on it.


Mixed canned foods can also still be gluten-free without a gluten-free claim or certification if it does not have the following:

  • Obvious gluten ingredients in it (think barley, rye, oats that aren’t certified gluten-free, wheat, and spelt)
  • Suspicious ingredients (like natural flavors etc.)
  • A “contains”, “may contain” or “processed on the same equipment” allergen statement

Plain Canned Food

This is any canned food where it’s just the food item in it. Like canned vegetables and fruits.

It’s safe if it has a “gluten-free” certification/claim on it.


Plain canned foods can also still be gluten-free without a gluten-free claim or certification if it does not have the following:

  • Obvious gluten ingredients in it (think barley, rye, oats that aren’t certified gluten-free, wheat, and spelt)
  • Suspicious ingredients (like natural flavors etc.)
  • A “contains”, “may contain” or “processed on the same equipment” allergen statement

As you can see, label reading is very important when it comes to determining if anything, including canned food, is gluten-free.


A Canned Food Label Reading Case Study

Type of Food Food Label Is it Gluten-Free?
Canned Black Beans
(Plain Canned Food)
Ingredients:
Black beans, salt, water

Allergen statement:
Processed on the same equipment as wheat.

No gluten-free claim.
No.
The black beans were processed on the same equipment as wheat and there is no “gluten-free” claim or certification, thus they are not considered safe due to potential cc.
Canned Black Beans
(Plain Canned Food)
Ingredients:
Black beans, salt, water

Allergen statement:
Processed on the same equipment as wheat.

There is a gluten-free certification.
Yes.
The black beans were processed on the same equipment as wheat but have been tested by a third party to contain <20ppm of gluten (often even less depending on the certifier) which is considered celiac-safe.

When this happens, typically it’s because the manufacturer has good cleaning practices when swtichen between allergenic foods (like wheat) and foods that don’t contain allergens.


Canned Black Beans
(Plain Canned Food)
Ingredients:
Black beans, salt, water

Allergen statement:
Processed in the same facility as wheat.

No gluten-free claim.
Depends, but probably yes.
The same facility as claim doesn’t mean much. These facilities can be the size of a football field and/or have multiple floors. For all you know, soup was being canned on the first floor, and the beans were being canned on the 3rd.

Pro-tip: If you’re concerned, contact the manufacturer.
Canned Black Beans
(Plain Canned Food)
Ingredients:
Black beans, salt, water

No allergen statement or gluten-free claim.
Yes.
There is no allergen statement suggesting that these beans have come into cross-contact with wheat or that they contain wheat.
Canned Chicken Noodle Soup
(Mixed Canned Food)
Ingredients:
Chicken broth, cooked white meat chicken, carrots, egg noodle (semolina wheat, egg*)

Allergen Statement:
Contains wheat, egg, and soy ingredients.
No.
The soup has the obvious unsafe ingredient, wheat. Not to mention the allergen statement clearly identifies the presence of wheat.
Canned Lentil Soup
(Mixed Canned Food)
Ingredients:
Water, lentils, celery, tomato paste, spinach, natural flavor

Has a gluten-free claim. No allergen statement.
Yes.
Though this product does have a suspicious ingredient (natural flavors), it is safe. The gluten-free claim means this product has <20ppm of gluten in it which the FDA has deemed generally safe for people with celiac disease.

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In Summary

Often people who are just starting out with a gluten-free lifestyle stick to only buying foods that are clearly labeled gluten-free. While this helps with adapting to the lifestyle, this is usually not necessary as you build your label reading confidence and skills.

That being said, there is also a small group of people with celiac disease who react to amounts of gluten that fall below the standard <20ppm. These people can react to 10ppm or lower and might need to be more stringent in their selection of canned foods. A dietitian specializing in celiac disease can help you decide what’s best for you if you’re unsure.

As always, if you don’t know if something is safe, say no. Additionally, a dietitian can be a great resource for determining what is right for you. We all have individual needs and while there are general recommendations, it can be helpful to tailor these recommendations to you with the help of a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease.


DISCLAIMER: This post was with USA labeling in mind. Please keep in mind – a gluten-free diet requires a lot of individualization. This case study is based on general safety recommendations for celiac disease and how I read labels – but is certainly not “LAW” by any means but more of a starting point to help you get more comfortable with reading labels.⁠

Lastly, as much as I can prepare you for the label reading world – labeling can get a little crazy in the USA – so if you don’t know if a food item is safe, say no – or contact the manufacturer.



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