Thursday, July 17, 2008
Quick tips on reading labels for the Gluten Free
A few weeks ago, Jen Riordan, one of the phenomenal moderators of the Delphi Celiac Site, posted a list she composed to help "newbies" read labels for gluten.
I've talked about Jen here before -- she really is a superwoman. She's the originator of the Freakin' Awesome Tropical Chicken, and she is a great mom to a daughter with celiac disease.
I thought this list was phenomenal, and with Jen's permission, I'm posting it here today. It might help you, and it might help someone else. But it's thoughtful and easy to tuck in your pocket when you're shopping for yourself (or better yet, for someone who is gluten free).
Label Reading Made Easy
for the Gluten-Free Diet
There are long lists of ingredients that are allowed and those that are not allowed on a gf diet. In reality, since the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), took effect in January 2006, label reading is simple. FALCPA requires that wheat always be labeled clearly, but it does not cover barley, rye, or oats.
This document discusses products that would be gluten free in ingredients, and does not speak to the potential of contamination with gluten grains during processing and manufacturing. If you are concerned about potential manufacturing contamination, contact the company for more information on their manufacturing practices. When in doubt, call the company or do not use the product.
For all meat and poultry products: any plant protein (wheat, barley, rye) will be listed. Meat and poultry are regulated by the USDA, and on 1, 1990, FSIS published the final rule, Ingredients That May Be Designated as Natural Flavors, Natural Flavorings, Flavors, or Flavorings When Used in Meat or Poultry Products. The rule stated that any plant protein that was added to a product must be listed. Therefore, for any meat product, read the label, and if the words “wheat, barley, or rye” are not present, the product is gluten free in ingredients.
For all other food products, regulated by the FDA, here are the seven words that should stop someone from eating a product immediately if they have CD: wheat, barley, rye, oats, malt, beer, natural flavors---for some of these, it means the product has a gluten protein that causes the autoimmune reaction of CD, for others, the ingredient should be investigated to determine if it is gluten based or if it would be safe for someone with CD.
1. Wheat---avoid everything with the word “wheat”
Wheat contains the gluten protein called gliadin, which causes the autoimmune reaction in those with CD. Wheat is not safe on a gf diet. All wheat should be avoided. FALCPA mandates that wheat always be listed, if present. That is, wheat can never been hidden in any ingredient in a food product. For example, for hydrolyzed protein, the label will say “hydrolyzed wheat protein,” or something similar, if it is wheat based.
2. Barley---avoid everything with the word “barley.”
Barley contains the gluten protein called hordein, which triggers the autoimmune response in those with CD.. Barley is not safe on a gf diet.
3. Rye---avoid everything with the word “rye”
Rye contains the gluten protein called secalin, which triggers the autoimmune response in those with CD. Rye is not safe on a gf diet.
4. Oats---avoid everything with the word “oats,” unless certified gf oats
Oats contains the gluten protein called avenin. In the majority of individuals with CD, avenin does not trigger the autoimmune response that gliadin, hordein, and secalin do, and therefore, in theory, oats are safe for those with CD. However, contamination with the other gluten grains during processing has been shown to be high in the commercial market, and commercial products with oats or oat flour have a high chance of having been contaminated with the other gluten grains. Therefore, they are not safe for those with CD. A product made with certified gf oats would be considered safe.
There are a small percentage of those with CD who will have an autoimmune reaction to avenin (like they do to the gliadin in wheat); it is important for anyone who is eating gf oats regularly to have antibody tests to ensure that they are not one of those individuals.
5. Malt---malt is nearly always barley; check source if not indicated on label
If “barley malt” is listed, the product should not be consumed. If “malt” is listed, it is likely to be barley, but check with the manufacturer (there is corn malt) if you really would like to use the product. If its not from a gluten grain, then it would be safe.
6. Beer---beer is made with barley and should be avoided
Beer is made with barley, and therefore not safe on a gf diet. If a product is made with gluten free beer, it would be safe, but as of June 2008, I’ve never encountered a commercially available product made with GF beer.
7. Natural flavors---check on any product with natural flavors
Natural flavors can have barley, and must be checked on. Most natural flavors are likely gf, but it is possible that barley is present and therefore, the product should be checked. While it is very unlikely that natural flavors will contain gluten, its up to the consumer to verify. If you are using a product from a company that clearly labels gluten, then you do not need to worry if you read “natural flavors,” as gluten will never be hidden by these companies.
Prepared June 2008
Thanks, Jen, for all you do for the GF and CD community! You're the best!
Much love, and pass me a magnifying glass!