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As a newly diagnosed celiac I'm a little confused on what all I should be avoiding when reading ingredients for food. I know if it says it has any wheat, barley, etc. I should not have it. But what about if a product says it is made in a plant that also processes wheat. Should I avoid it? Or what about labels that say the product has been produced on equipment that also processed wheat? Sometime they will additionally claim that they clean the equipment but can't guarantee that some wheat got into the product. If there is any hint of wheat at all (even just somewhere in the manufacturing facility) should I just avoid consuming that product? Thanks.

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All I can tell you is that I read an article a few years back that highlighted a study on this matter. It stated that there is a 70% chance of gluten contamination if a product has been processed on equipment that also processes gluten grains and that there is a 30% chance of gluten contamination if a product has been processed in a plant where gluten grains are also processed. Personally, I usually pass on these products--why take the chance? It's like Russian roulette.

By the way, here's a list of "regular" foods that are gluten free that you can purchase at any supermarket:

http://homepage.mac.com/sholland/celiac/GFfoodlist.pdf

Personally, I don't tend to eat processed foods, but if I need a special ingredient (such as enchilada sauce), I use this particular list.

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I stay away from anything that says it is processed on equipment that also processes wheat, or "may contain wheat".

Some products, like the site's own sponsor Nut Thins are labeled Gluten Free, and recommended by Celiac.com as safe to eat, but the label says they're made in a facility that also processes wheat products. My guess is that they have dedicated days when they make the gluten-free foods, and maybe on dedicated equipment. I eat Nut Thins, and haven't had a problem with them, and I'm fairly sensitive.

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I guess I'd set it up like this, for processed food.

Rating from lowest risk of gluten issues to highest risk (sort of):

gluten-free food made in a dedicated gluten-free facility and certified gluten free (certified from the GFCO or the CSA) - safest...and most expensive, of course. <_<

gluten-free food made in a dedicated facility and tested - pretty darn safe

gluten-free food made on a dedicated line (but not a gluten-free facility) and tested - pretty darn safe with small risk

gluten-free food made on a shared line and tested - pretty safe, but slightly larger risk

gluten-free food made in a dedicated facility and NOT tested - safety depends on the product itself and where it might have contacted gluten BEFORE the gluten-free facility. Usually, grains, beans, and nuts are a little less safe, meats, fruits, and veggies are a little more safe. This food could be just fine, or could be contaminated. Without testing - no way to tell except by how we react.

gluten-free food made on a dedicated line, not a gluten-free facility, and NOT tested - hopefully safe, but same issue as untested food from a gluten-free facility, combined with potential gluten contamination risks from elsewhere in the facility.

gluten-free food made on a shared line, not a gluten-free facility, and NOT tested - sometimes safe, but no way to tell when there's gluten cc, because it's not tested. So risks from the field, risks from gluten elsewhere in the facility, and risks from the food processed on the same line. Still safe, sometimes, though.

Food with no gluten ingredients indicated on the label - total crapshoot. Could be fine, or could have the wheat baking machine of death processing food right next to it and poofing flour into the air and into the product. it's risky, in other words.

Also info. re: the labels:

Gluten Free - in the USA, this has limited meaning, because we have no law in place to regulate it. A gluten free food can be any of the above examples and still be called gluten free, so when it comes to a food, I'd trust your reaction first, the gluten-free label second.

No gluten ingredients - this just means they didn't add gluten 'on purpose.' It says nothing about cross contamination risks, sadly. Some companies do this because there really IS a risk. Some do it just because they don't want to get sued, but there is actually little risk.

Naturally gluten free - a weasel term, IMHO. It means that if you picked this thing in the wild, it has no gluten, like an eggplant or an orange. However, because our food is processed so much with other foods before we get it, it can be contaminated out the wazoo and back again. So this is essentially like 'no gluten ingredients' but usually reserved for foods with one ingredient, or hardly more than that. Like sugar or cocoa powder. It might be safe, it might not.

Usually, if you see a label that indicates some risks, or that you're not sure about, the best thing to do is call up the company and ask, or check it on the web. If people are reacting to a food from a company, we'll usually pass the word, because if we don't, no one else will. You just have to make sure you are getting a response from the right country - companies can use different formulas in different countries for the same food, so it can be gluten-free in one country and not gluten-free in another.

Re: the risk factors. One of the reasons this is a hard question to answer is because celiacs seem to react to different levels of gluten - teeny tiny differences, but with gluten-free food, that can make a difference.

Until you know what sensitivity level you are - which is pretty much a trial and error type of deal, sadly - you won't know which labels you'll need to stick to.

In my family, for example, we have numerous celiacs. My father can usually eat food processed on lines that have also processed wheat, no problems at all. I get sick with foods that have much fewer risks, ones that are processed on gluten-free lines but in facilities that also process wheat. Like the Nut-thins mentioned above. I get sick on those every time.

In contrast, they are one of my father's favorite snacks.

It takes a while, but truly, it'll get easier little by little, and feel less like an overwhelming avalanche coming down on top of you. :)

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One important thing to know about the term "gluten-free" is that is not legal to use it in a misleading way. It must be a distinguishing characteristic of that specific product compared to other similar products. Thus, bread with no gluten can be labeled "gluten-free."

Since coffee (just one example) is inherently gluten-free, putting a gluten-free label on coffee would not be permitted in either the US or Canada. You can state that it is "naturally gluten-free" which does not create a false impression.

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All I can tell you is that I read an article a few years back that highlighted a study on this matter. It stated that there is a 70% chance of gluten contamination if a product has been processed on equipment that also processes gluten grains and that there is a 30% chance of gluten contamination if a product has been processed in a plant where gluten grains are also processed. Personally, I usually pass on these products--why take the chance? It's like Russian roulette.

By the way, here's a list of "regular" foods that are gluten free that you can purchase at any supermarket:

http://homepage.mac.com/sholland/celiac/GFfoodlist.pdf

Personally, I don't tend to eat processed foods, but if I need a special ingredient (such as enchilada sauce), I use this particular list.

I just looked at this list. I saw Ovaltine and Carnation Instant Breakfast. Both are on the list as gluten-free. However, just this morning I read the ingredient list, and I know that the Strawberry flavor Instant drink mix has wheat listed right on the label. Also, Ovaltine has caramel color listed. It was my understanding that caramel color is from malt and malt is not gluten-free.

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Caramel color is one of those celiac urban myths that just won't go away.

Here is Shelley Case's take on it, from Gluten-Free Diet A Comprehensive Resource Guide:

Although gluten-containing ingredients (barley malt syrup and starch hydrolysates) can be used in the production of caramel color, North American companies use corn as it has a longer shelf life and makes a superior product. European companies use glucose derived from wheat starch, however caramel color is highly processed and contains no gluten.
[Emphasis in original]

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I just looked at this list. I saw Ovaltine and Carnation Instant Breakfast. Both are on the list as gluten-free. However, just this morning I read the ingredient list, and I know that the Strawberry flavor Instant drink mix has wheat listed right on the label. Also, Ovaltine has caramel color listed. It was my understanding that caramel color is from malt and malt is not gluten-free.

While lists can be helpful product ingredients change at will. Reading the ingredients on all stuff is the way to go.

With the Ovaltine, isn't that made with malt? Perhaps that has changed but any time I have looked at it malt was listed. Has been awhile though and that may have changed.

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Caramel color is one of those celiac urban myths that just won't go away.

Here is Shelley Case's take on it, from Gluten-Free Diet A Comprehensive Resource Guide:

[Emphasis in original]

Thanks for that info. The no caramel color is on the sheet of what to avoid I received from my Dr.

As for the Ovaltine it's only the Rich Chocolate flavor that might be considered safe.

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Thanks for that info. The no caramel color is on the sheet of what to avoid I received from my Dr.

Perhaps this is a sneaky way for your doctor to tell you stay away from cola (diet & regular) as they use caramel color to give it that "brown cola" color.

Good for him/her!

Stick with two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen as your primary beverage (H2O).

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As for the Ovaltine it's only the Rich Chocolate flavor that might be considered safe.

Personally I wouldn't touch it. The chance of CC is IMHO very high unless they use a different plant to make it.

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Personally I wouldn't touch it. The chance of CC is IMHO very high unless they use a different plant to make it.

I'm not. I'll let my boys drink since they need to continue eating gluten until they are tested.

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