The Basic Gluten-Free Diet

 Ground rule 5: Stop and ask for more information.

Seasonings may be gluten-free but read the label carefully. Some seasoning blends contain hydrolyzed wheat protein. This will be clearly listed on the label.  

Wheat starch may be gluten free, but read the label carefully. If you do see it listed on a label, it may be wheat starch that has been processed to remove gluten. You should look for both a gluten-free label and a statement on the package that notes that the wheat starch has been processed to meet FDA gluten-free standards. If there is no gluten-free label, do not eat food made with wheat starch. For more guidance on wheat starch, you can read about it here.

Wheat grass/barley grass/rye grass may be in products labeled gluten free. Young grasses are different than mature grains in terms of gluten content. Grass or grass juice can be used in products labeled gluten free provided that the final product meets the gluten-free standard. Any foods you eat with wheat/rye/barley grass should be labeled gluten free. Read more about foods made with wheat, rye or barley grass here.

Oats may be gluten free, but read the label carefully. The safety of oats that are grown under “purity protocol” conditions versus those that are mechanically sorted continues to be up for debate among experts in celiac disease. You can read more about that here. While oats themselves do not contain gluten, they are at risk for cross-contact with gluten-containing grains. If you do choose to eat oats, choose oats that are labeled gluten free. Also, any foods you eat that are made with oats (e.g., granola bars) should be labeled gluten free.

Smoke flavoring may be made using barley to capture the smoke. It is not known how often this happens, so to be safe, look for the gluten-free label on any food made with smoke flavoring.

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Yeast extract/autolyzed yeast extract may be made with spent yeast from the brewing of beer. It is not known how often this happens, so to be safe, look for the gluten-free label on any food made with yeast extract/autolyzed yeast extract. You can read more about yeast extract here.

Allergen advisory statements such as “made in a shared facility,” “made on shared equipment,” and “may contain wheat” are often confusing to gluten-free consumers. It is important to note that these statements are voluntary on the part of the manufacturer and not regulated by any federal agency. Recent research shows that these statements are also not reliable predictors of gluten contamination. You can read more about allergen advisory statements on gluten-free foods here.  

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Ground rule 6: Spot the differences in USDA-regulated foods.

  • The USDA governs meat, poultry and foods made with more than 3 percent raw meat or 2 percent cooked meat. The USDA also oversees egg products (except shelled eggs, which are regulated by the FDA). If you’re not sure whether the USDA governs a product, look for the shield (egg products) or the mark of inspection (meat products).
  • The USDA does not have a specific rule for gluten-free labeling; however, based on its label analysis, 80 to 90 percent of USDA-regulated foods are in voluntary compliance with food allergy labeling, including sometimes using the gluten-free label.
  • The use of a Contains statement or the listing of allergens in the ingredients list indicates that the manufacturer is in voluntary compliance with food allergy labeling.
  • If you don’t see a gluten-free label, allergens listed in the ingredients list or a Contains statement, look for the following words and avoid foods containing:
    • Wheat
    • Barley/malt
    • Rye
    • Oats
    • Brewer’s yeast
  • There are a few other ingredients in USDA-regulated foods that could indicate the presence of gluten. If you don’t see a gluten-free label, contact the manufacturer to find out the source of these ingredients:
    • Starch (unless a gluten-free source is named, such as cornstarch)
    • Dextrin (unless a gluten-free source is named, such as corn dextrin)
    • Modified food starch (unless a gluten-free source is named, such as tapioca starch)

Related articles

Top 10 Ingredients You Really Don’t Need to Worry About

What is Celiac Disease?

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Your Guide to Gluten-Free Whole Grains


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