When Is a Product Really “Gluten-Free”? 7 Ways To Know

When Is a Product Really “Gluten-Free”? 7 Ways To Know

Last time we had one of our chats, we talked about risks of getting glutened out there in the world. Risks that we couldn’t avoid, since we have to live our lives and all.

But I think I goofed.

I could tell by the comments that something was lost in translation. Since I have this thing about going on and on (and on) on the blog (I don’t like to do it), I didn’t say too much in the post. I just sort of jumped into the list. My point, which was sadly lost in the shuffle, was that we all feel some of these concerns sometimes, but there’s only so much we can do. And it’s really okay. Instead, I’m afraid my words seemed to come off like the ravings of a lunatic.

Now I don’t deny being a lunatic. But the last thing I wanted to do was stoke fears. I wanted to quell them. I never want to make things harder on you. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I get up every morning trying to think of what might be fun for you to learn, how I can try to make things easier on you in my own small way. And honestly how I can make you laugh, which might be my most favoritist part of all. Just generally – how I can help.

So. Since we can’t make every single thing ourselves, and we have to buy some things some of the time (like GF flours, for one, or a bag of chips and a drink for a famished (drama) child), it helps to know how best to judge what’s out there…

Here’s how I review a product for its safety for my little celiac boy:

1. The label on the product itself says “Certified Gluten Free” by GIG or the Celiac Sprue Association. Slam dunk. I’ll take 2.

2. The company, whether big or small, has a website with intelligent, articulate information about gluten in its products. It indicates whether individual products contain gluten, are manufactured in a facility shared with gluten-containing products and/or are manufactured on shared equipment with gluten-containing products. Thank you, smartphone, and your fancy Internet-anywhere access.

3. For big, well-established corporations: the label says “Gluten Free,” regardless of whether or not there is a certification. Companies like General Mills are big enough to afford testing, tout their gluten-free-ness all over the ding-dong place and would be perfect fools to fail to put their money where mouth mouth is. They know what’s at stake. We’re a big market already, and growing bigger every day, yo.

4. The company is one that you know practices “truth in labeling,” and has a “CONTAINS” statement which indicates the presence of any of the top 8 food allergens as defined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy & wheat). “Gluten” is a broader category than wheat, but “truth in labeling” companies will not hide gluten in things like “natural flavors” without indicating that. Kraft is one such company.

5. You contacted the company with the package in your hot little hands, gave them the “lot #” and they have told you, “Yes, ma’am. That product is gluten-free.” (Not for nothing, but it doesn’t win too many brownie points with me when they call me ma’am.)

6. You tested a product with a home gluten test like EZ Gluten and it came up clean. Except there’s no way I’m doing that, on account of it costs a million simoleons. I’ll just abstain.

7. It’s really and truly naturally gluten-free, like water. Or vegetables. Or air (except in a flour factory).

BTW, that picture up there, of my youngest holding a flower at the San Francisco Botanical Garden last month, just plum takes my breath away. She was dying for a flower flower flower, and we spent most of the visit trying to explain that she couldn’t pluck one off a tree (“what if every little girl pulled a flower off a tree?”). When she finally found one on the ground, she held it as gingerly as she could, asking over and over if she could put it in water. Oh those little hands…

How do you decide if a product is gluten-free?


P.S. If you buy a copy of My Cookbook, I still won’t be able to afford those fancy EZ Gluten tests (who really can?) but with any luck I can afford more recipe testing. Thank you so much for your support!


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