Beans

I read in one of your previous issues about how beans are a healthy, naturally gluten- free food. But often the label on dried lentils and beans will say, “May contain soy and wheat.” I have found this on Wegmans and Goya brands. Is this because of the way beans are harvested or processed? I often rinse the beans, but does this remove any possible wheat?

This also leads me to be concerned about canned beans and lentils because I assume they originate in the same place as the dried beans? Does anyone produce specifically gluten- free beans or lentils?

You are right about beans and lentils being an important part of a healthy, gluten-free diet. They provide fiber, protein, antioxidants, and B Vitamins. Plus they are low in fat and calories.

Valerie Fox, a Wegmans spokesperson, said the store brand of beans and lentils have the “may contain” statement and are not labeled with the store’s gluten- free symbol because the supplier makes other products that could contain wheat and can’t guarantee against cross contamination. “Based on their manufacturing process, they will not support a gluten- free claim,” Fox said.

Wegmans canned beans and lentils are gluten free, Fox said, because the supplier only processes canned fruit and vegetables and there is no potential for cross- contamination.

Goya on its website lists its bluelabeled canned beans and peas as gluten free. Dried beans are gluten- free but “may be susceptible to cross-contamination,” the company says.

Anne R. Lee, RD, contributing editor for Gluten- Free Living and former nutritionist for the Columbia Celiac Disease Center, said you can find beans without the “may contain” warning. That includes Safeway and Arrowhead Mills brands, plus a number of private store brands.

But Lee said she does not worry too much even when the potential for cross contamination is noted because beans are usually minimally processed. To be on the safe side, she said, rinsing the beans well should eliminate any potential risks for gluten.

“May contain” statements like the ones found on dried beans can be confusing if you follow the gluten- free diet. They are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and are put on packages voluntarily by food companies. Some companies use them as legal protection while others are genuinely trying to communicate a potential risk to allergic consumers. They do not mean a food actually does contain the allergen or gluten, only that some possibility exists.