I know you’ve all seen those labels on various packaged goods that say, “May Contain Wheat.” This kind of labeling is so confusing to the average and even most experienced gluten-free consumer – and buyer should beware.
“May Contain Wheat” generally means one of two things:
- It may mean that the product has no “gluten” ingredients but it has not been independently verified by the manufacturer nor certified gluten-free by a third party organization.
- It may mean the product is produced on shared equipment that has touched gluten so there may have been some sort of cross contamination during the manufacturing process.
Unfortunately these confusing labels are rampant in the industry, and, unfortunately they are legal.
In fact, such disclosures are voluntary statements made by the individual manufacturer. They are basically telling you, “We don’t know if this product contains gluten – so maybe you shouldn’t eat it if you have a wheat allergy or celiac disease.”
Other voluntary label disclosures I often see say things like, “Processed on equipment shared with wheat,” or something like “Contains no gluten ingredients.”
Such disclosures are so confusing … and leave me often scratching my head.
However, if you have a wheat allergy or celiac disease, or you’re avoiding gluten for another health reason, you need to think long and hard about whether or not you’d eat a product with such a disclosure statement tied to it.
In fact, your gluten antennas should be up if you see such a disclosure on a product label. I highly recommend avoiding such products altogether. It’s too risky!
Instead of worrying about products I can’t eat, I instead look for things you can safely eat on your gluten-free diet.
What to Look for in Safe Gluten-Free Products
To find products safe for you to consume on your gluten-free diet, skip products with such warning labels as “May Contain Wheat” and instead opt for products that are:
- Labeled gluten-free: If a product is labeled gluten-free, it contains less than 20 ppm of gluten per the FDA legal limits and is generally considered safe for someone with celiac disease to eat.
- Certified gluten-free: Certified gluten-free products are verified gluten-free by one of these for certifying organizations: National Celiac Association, Certified NSF (NSF in circle), Gluten Intolerance Group (with the GF circled), or the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.
If a product is not labeled “gluten-free,” nor certified gluten-free by a third party agency, it doesn’t mean the product isn’t safe. It just means more research is required.
- Check the allergen statement: Wheat is a considered a top allergy food and most manufacturers will list wheat on their ingredient labels if the product contains wheat. The only issue is that barley and rye (which also contain gluten) are not considered “top allergens,” so do not rely on the allergen statement alone to determine if a product is gluten-free.
- Research: Visit the manufacturer’s website for details. Many manufacturers will answer the “Is it gluten-free?” question on their site’s FAQs page. If you can’t find a satisfactory answer, contact the manufacturer. This is often necessary to do when there are no good substitutes available that are gluten-free.
- Test yourself. If all else fails, use your Nima Sensor to test a product for gluten. I often do this. My Nima Sensor helps me make an educated decision about whether or not I want to eat the product.
We have come a long way in the gluten-free labeling arena, but we still have a long way to go. It’s more important than ever to be an educated consumer and shop for products that meet your level of gluten-free standards. If a product label says, “May Contain Wheat,” buyer beware. The manufacturer is trying to tell you something that may put your good health at risk. It’s just not worth it.