Survey Says 54% of Americans Still Don’t Know What Gluten Is

nsf-gluten-freeA new survey from certification organization NSF International says that while 90 percent of Americans have heard of gluten, more than half (54 percent) are unable to correctly define it.

Granted, the survey was a sampling of all Americans, not just those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, who are almost certainly more knowledgeable about gluten-containing ingredients than the average person who has heard of gluten.

Twenty percent of consumers surveyed thought gluten was simply wheat or a protein found in all carbohydrates, while 26 percent thought that products without wheat were automatically gluten free. Barley and rye are also gluten-containing grains not allowed on the gluten-free diet.

Survey respondents also had trouble identifying ingredients that do not contain gluten. Nearly half (47 percent) believed rice contained gluten, while 34 percent believed that potatoes contained gluten. (For a fast primer on which products actually contain gluten, check out our Basic Diet guide.)

It should also be noted that the survey was done by a certification group, which has a vested interest in promoting the need for gluten-free labeling.

Interestingly, however, only about a third of survey respondents said they would look for a gluten-free certification label or seal as the first indication that a product is gluten free. Forty-six percent of consumers said that they would first look at the ingredient list to determine if a product was gluten free.

However, if many Americans wrongly believe potatoes and rice have gluten, this may not be the best way for consumers to determine if a product is truly gluten free.

We’re curious: How do you confirm a product is gluten free? How important is seeing a gluten-free certification label or seal when deciding to make a purchase?

Leave your answer in the comments below or tweet us @Gfliving.

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  • Krista Patrick Chamberlain

    I just started doing the gluten free diet at the beginning of July. I find it very helpful when a product actually says it’s gluten free. Sometimes it is very hard to find it on the package label though. It would be nice if gluten free items stated that they are, in deed, gluten free and that it was easier to find on the packaging. Right now I search the ingredient list and if I’m not sure, I get my phone out and search the Internet.