How to Check Food Labels for Gluten
Whether you’re newly diagnosed or not, checking food for gluten can be exhausting and confusing. This is why I wrote this guide on how to check food labels for gluten.
This guide on how to check food for gluten will help you determine if a packaged food item is safe for someone with celiac disease. It’s important to note that these are general standards and some people with celiac disease or NCGS have even stricter standards then listed below. If you’re buying food for someone who is living gluten-free, be sure to check with them on if the item is acceptable too.
How to Check a Food Label for Gluten
When approaching a food label, remember the acronym “CANS”
|C||Certifications & Claims|
|A||Allergen Statement / Warning|
|N||Not Safe Ingredients|
Certifications and Gluten-Free Claims
A general good rule of thumb is that if “gluten-free” or “no gluten” is on the packaging of food in the USA then the food is safe. This means you can skip the rest of the steps below. Beware of foods that say “no gluten-containing ingredients” or any other variation of that. You want to see “gluten-free” because this means that it has to have less than 20ppm of gluten in it in the USA. In some countries, this cut-off is even lower.
In the United States of America, 20ppm of gluten is considered generally safe for people with celiac disease. This might make you wonder why other countries require there to be lower amounts. The thing is that some people with celiac disease can react to foods with gluten falling below 20ppm. So if you’re buying gluten-free food for someone, you need to check with them if the food is something they’d feel safe eating because everyone has different standards and needs.
If you live in the USA and need food that contains only 10ppm or 5ppm of gluten, you might want to consider contacting manufacturers to see what their products test at. Alternatively, you can buy food items with gluten-free food certifications that test at levels even lower than 20ppm.
If you can’t find “gluten-free anywhere on the label, it’s time to move on to the next step!
Is there an Allergen Statement?
If gluten isn’t listed in the ingredients it’s for the next step on checking food labels for gluten. The next step is to read the allergen statement.
There are two types of allergen statements. One of which is required per FDA guidelines and one that is voluntary.
The required one is the “contains” statement. This is the statement that clearly calls out any top 8 allergens in the food item. If a food item has a “contains wheat” or “contains gluten” statement, it is not safe.
The voluntary statements are the “may contain”, “processed on the same equipment” and “made in the same facility” claims. This statement makes things a little more complicated.
This step is very individualized. Some people will eat foods processed on the same equipment and facility as gluten, others will not. I personally will eat food processed in the same facility but not always on the same equipment.
For example, personally if I see the “processed on the same equipment as wheat” allergen statement, I will either not buy the product or I will contact the manufacturer to see what their protocol is. However, I will eat foods with “processed in the same facility as wheat” claims.
Not Safe Ingredients
Next on how to check food labels for gluten is checking the label for gluten ingredients.
If you can’t find “gluten-free” anywhere on the food item or label, you need to read the ingredient list.
When reading the ingredient list you need to look for any obvious gluten-containing ingredients.
Remember the acronym “BROWS” which stands for Barley, Rye, Oats (sometimes), Wheat, and Spelt. To the right is an infographic I shared to my Instagram on a few common ingredients to watch for!
Are there any suspicious ingredients mentioned on the food label without a gluten-free claim? These ingredients are those that might not obviously contain gluten if the label isn’t specified as gluten-free. Examples might be spices, natural flavoring, caramel color, and more.
For a more in-depth list of suspicious ingredients, download my celiac disease workbook by signing up for my newsletter below!
Contact the Manufacturer (optional)
Like I mentioned above, sometimes I will contact the manufacturer or company about the food I am unsure about. I recommend this especially if you anxious or want more info. I find the best way is to call, email, or DM companies on social media.
While there can be a lot more to reading food labels, I hope this post on how to check food labels for gluten has been helpful. I think it provides a solid foundation and starting point for finding safe food. Do you have any tips you want to share? Leave a comment.