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    15 Foods People Wrongly Think Are Gluten-Free

    Jefferson Adams

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Here are 15 foods or food ingredients that some people wrongly assume are gluten-free.

    Caption: Image: CC--Signe Karin

    Celiac.com 11/15/2018 - Gluten-free products, marketed as such, were largely unknown 20 years ago, but the gluten-free industry is set to reach an estimated $2.34 billion in sales by 2019. That’s more than double figures for 2014. The growth has been exponential.

    What sets gluten-free foods apart from other culinary trends or diet fads is that they address a legitimate health concern that affects millions of people around the world.

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    With the massive influx of gluten-free products, and the expansion of “gluten-free” restaurant options, it’s easy to forget that gluten exists in some obvious and not so obvious places that people with celiac disease need to avoid.

    Here are 15 foods or food ingredients that many people wrongly assume are gluten-free:

    Light or dark, lager, IPA or Stout, traditional beer is brewed with barley, and is not gluten-free. However, a number of major and micro breweries create tasty gluten-free alternatives. There are a number of tasty, award winning beers that are brewed from gluten-free ingredients and are fully gluten-free. There are also gluten-reduced beers. These beers are brewed like traditional beers and EU regulations allow for gluten-removed beer to be labeled as gluten-free. Plenty of people with celiac disease do fine drinking these beers, but many do not. Know your beer, know your body, and drink accordingly. Read more at Celiac.com's Oktoberfest Beer Guide! Gluten-free vs. Gluten-removed Beers.

    Barbecue Sauce
    Many barbecue sauces use artificial colors, flavorings or thickeners that may contain gluten, so it’s important to check labels, and even contact a manufacturer if you're not sure about something.

    Couscous, Tabbouleh and Falafel
    Couscous and bulgar are wheat and are used in many different Middle-eastern foods, and some people do not realize that they contain gluten. Bulgar or couscous are also used to make another popular Middle-eastern dish called tabbouleh (salad). Couscous or wheat flour are sometimes used to make falafel, so be sure to ask about the ingredients before eating. 

    Always be careful about candy. Many candies are safe and gluten-free, but many candies are not. Sometimes trusted products can change. Read labels, check websites, contact manufacturers as needed, and be careful! If you’re not sure, Celiac.com’s Annual Safe Gluten-Free Halloween Candy List is a good place to start.

    Cookie Dough
    This might seem obvious, but cookie dough, unless specifically gluten-free, almost always contains standard wheat flour and is not gluten-free.

    Dried Spices
    Some manufacturers actually use flour to keep their spices from clumping. Pay special attention to spice blends and mixes, including curry powders, which may contain wheat.

    Gravies, Soups, Sauces and Mixes—Packaged, Canned, or Jarred
    If you’ve ever made gravy from scratch, you might recall that it involves making a roux, a paste of butter and flour which thickens the gravy and gives it a nice sheen. Well, roux is also used as a thickening agent in many packaged, canned or jarred gravies, soups, sauces and mixes.  Even some fresh soups may contain wheat or flour. Gazpacho, for example, can be made gluten-free, but most recipes call for a piece of bread soaked in sherry vinegar and blended into the soup. When it comes to gluten in soup, eater beware!

    Hot Dogs & Sausages
    The bun is an obvious source of gluten, but the dog itself can contain traces of wheat as well in the form of both filler and binder. So check labels, know the ingredients, and double-check when it comes to hot dogs and sausages.

    Ice Cream
    Although many ice creams are gluten-free, some may contain wheat in the form of added ingredients, like cookie dough, toppings or candy pieces. Double-check the ingredients to be safe. 

    Packaged Deli Meats, Marinated or Pre-Seasoned Meats & Vegetable Proteins
    Packaged, marinated meat, fish, chicken, or other meats may contain gluten as a binder or hidden ingredient. Some vegetable-based proteins like Seitan contain gluten. Also, many deli meats claim to be gluten-free, but the same companies have released specific lines of gluten-free meats, raising the question of why they needed a separate product in the first place. Deli meats are controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the Food and Drug Administration, which currently uses a different gluten-free standard.

    Prescription Drugs, Vitamins and Supplements
    Even though they are not technically foods, and they are meant to keep you healthy, prescription drugs, vitamins and supplements may contain gluten as binders, typically in the form of wheat starch. Ask you pharmacist for guidance, read labels closely, and make phone calls to companies or visit their Web sites to be sure.

    Salad Dressings
    Many salad dressings have updated their recipes to exclude any wheat or barley-derived additives, but some still contain gluten, especially the powdered mix kind.

    Soy Sauce
    Most soy sauces contain wheat and should be avoided. Be sure to find a gluten-free soy sauce.

    Although raw fish by itself is gluten-free, there are many ingredients in sushi rolls and other items that contain soy sauce and other sources of gluten. The seaweed wrappers in sushi may contain soy sauce, and the wasabi or fake crab may contain gluten. Teriyaki sauce is another source of gluten because it is made with soy sauce. See our How to Safely Order Sushi article for more info.

    Teriyaki Sauce
    Teriyaki is nearly always made with made with soy sauce, and most commercial brands contain wheat, so be careful. 

    Read more on:
    Celiac.com UNSAFE Food List
    Celiac.com SAFE Food List
    Celiac.com's SAFE and UNSAFE Halloween Candy List

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    Another concern for sushi -- the flying fish roe is brined in a solution that contains soy sauce. 

    And the thing I realized, a ways into having to be gluten free, is that those free tortilla chips that come with salsa at the beginning of a Mexican meal have been fried in the same oil as batter-fried foods.

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    Also beware of icing sugar and brown sugar. This sounds unlikely, but they may contain gluten.

    English mustard powder is made with wheat flour.

    Do think process, when judging gluten contamination. Your sushi may be designed to be gluten-free, but was the knife or board used for fake crab?

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    Most items I was aware of, but the seaweed wrappers themselves...that's an eye-opener.

    I used to like canned fish e.g. tuna, but continued to have bad gluten-type reactions.  I learned that the juice contains yeast, a gluten cross-over.  What's worse is that yeast was not on the label. 

    The FDA should require better labeling requirements. I am glad to see many manufactures now have an allergy warning on the label stating whether or not the food is processed in a plant containing wheat. 

    Celiac disease is horrible because gluten & yeast are present where you least suspect it.  By time you find out...it's too late & the hours of "suffering" begins.

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     You may be mistaken on that. Tinned tuna is usually available packed in water or oil--and there's no yeast in the oil, for sure. On the other hand, if you buy commercially prepared tuna salad, that is sometimes "thickened" with flour or bread crumbs as an extender, and that will cause a definite problem.

     Tuna in a retort pouch is safer, there's hardly any liquid in it. And it is not as expensive as it seems, since the package contains no water weight. (A 6 oz. can of tuna can contain ~4 oz. of tuna plus 2 oz. of expensive packing liquid. A 4 oz. pouch of tuna, contains 4 oz. of tuna.)

     Tinned chicken and roast beef similarly may be packed in a "broth" and you need to read labels closely, because many broths have a little gluten added to fake the feeling of fat, which they've removed and sold separately.

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    Yeast may be gluten free, but some of us who are sensitive to gluten are also just as sensitive to yeast.  For me, gluten and yeast give the same reaction.  I'm not sure what the correlation is, but there certainly is one for me.

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    Yeast is only a problem if it is "Brewers Yeast" the left over yeast from beer brewing sometimes used for a flavor enhancer, or nutrional supplment.
    Active Raw yeast in Gluten Free breads is normally Gluten Free, but can cause fermentation and gas issues, those with compromized guts can even have it setting in their intestines and cause all kinds of havoc.
    Nutional Yeast depends on Brand, Braggs, KAL, Star Foods, and Sala are Gluten free and not fed gluten prior to being killed and used for a nutritional booster.


    17 hours ago, Guest Lindey said:

    Many carbonated drinks contain barley such as coke, ginger beer, dandelion and burdock. Do check the labels

    Most Carbonated beverages in the US are safe, exception being some flavored blends, and non mainstream ones. I use Zevia Ginger Beer Fine and it is Gluten Free labeled, Dandelion tea from Republic of Tea is Gluten free certified and good for digestion.

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    Actually, you can't "check the label" on CocaCola or Pepsi. Both use "secret recipes" that are indeed trade secrets and zealously guarded. In the unlikely (but possible) event that barley or malt was a trace ingredient, it could remain unlisted as part of that trade secret.

    If you contacted the company to enquire about allergens, you might get an answer. Or, you might simply be told it is a trade secret.

    You'd have to ask the FDA if their disclosure laws trump the laws of trade secrets, and if the courts have actually affirmed that.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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