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sarahw

Help With Food Labels

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I have recently been diagnosed with celiac disease and have a question about food labels. Do companies have to specify whether or not a product is produced in a facility that also processes wheat? For example, I was looking at canned tomatoes tonight at Whole Foods. The Whole Foods brand specificies that their tomatoes are produced in a facility that also process wheat etc. but another brand I looked at does not specify either way. Does this mean they were produced in a gluten free facility or the company is just not putting a warning on their product? I just can't imagine that basic things like canned tomatoes etc. are something I have to worry about!! Any help is greatly appreciated!

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Depends what country you're in! Just to make things extra confusing for us Celiacs every country has different rules! Here in Canada, there are new labelling rules coming into force next year that require plain language labels that clearly identify priority allergens, gluten sources and sulphites. The only problem is that the rules only address ingredients intentionally added to food and not cross contamination. My understanding is that Health Canada is working on new rules now about the use of "may contain" statements since they're so confusing.

One strategy I use is to look at a bunch of products made by the same company to see if there's a "pattern" in their labelling. So if I see "traces of wheat" on one product, but not on another (of the same brand), then I assume its okay. Your best option though is to call the company. Its a pain, but its the best way to find out.

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The original post came from the United States (moderators know things).

The current "gluten-free" label rules in Canada, and the proposed updates, refer only to gluten in intentional ingredients. In the US, there are currently NO RULES.

"May contain" statements are voluntary in both jurisdictions. Canada does have some strongly written guidelines about precautionary statements.

"Shared facility" is not defined, other than what you would ordinarily think. When this VOLUNTARY disclosure is made, it means that somewhere in the same complex where the final production is done, there is an allergen.

The much talked about "gluten-free facility" is a myth. Even if no gluten is intentionally brought into the facility, contamination may occur there because humans work there and deliver things. The truck driver may have been to McDonalds for lunch and probably didn't wash AFTER eating their Big Mac. Even if she did, crumbs may remain on her clothes.

Almost every "gluten-free" facility buys ingredients from outside sources. Those facilities may or may not have intentional gluten somewhere in the plant. See above about human factors.

Bottom line for me: If there are no questionable ingredients, and no "may contain" statement, I don't worry.

BTW, if "shared facility" worries you, do not ever, ever eat in a restaurant, and make sure that nobody ever, ever brings a product containing gluten into your home.

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That's a really good question! And I don't know the answer, but I've always been okay with canned tomatoes if the ingredients were safe. My instincts tell me it's optiona, only because I wanted to test corn tortillas rececently and was told that mission does them on a separate line. Mission doesn't print it on their packaging, and I don't believe that they're labeled gluten-free.

I worked in a canning factory when I was in my teens. I really don't think you need to worry about canned veggies being cc, based on my experience. But that was 30 years ago, so I could be wrong.

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As was said, the 'processed in a facility with wheat' is a voluntary statement, not mandatory. The majority of companies have facilities that process foods with gluten somewhere in the facility, or possibly on the same line.

You're more likely to find a facility that doesn't have intentionally added gluten in the facility with companies that specialize, like sunmaid with raisins, or Heinz with tomato products.

Most celiacs do okay with food from shared facilities and lines, but every once in a while there'll be some oddball contamination sneak in. Most celiacs I know just kind of have a 'note to self' moment if they get glutened, and if it starts happening frequently after eating a particular product, then they might eliminate that product for a while and see how things go.

Since there is no legal regulation of the term gluten free here in the states, here's some info that can be useful.

No gluten ingredients means that a company hasn't added any gluten on purpose, but doesn't address whether gluten cross contamination might be an issue. Sometimes these foods are fine, sometimes they're not. They are less likely to be an issue if they are not grain based, or made in a company that has a lot of grain based products.

Naturally gluten free means that this product, in its natural state, is gluten free. This is for products where it is considered misleading to say 'gluten free,' because it implies that other products of the same type might normally have gluten. Like, say, calling one's broccoli gluten free. However, there are some products that this is being used for which can be a problem, because while the product is naturally gluten free, the harvesting/processing practices frequently result in gluten cross-contamination. This applies for many gluten-free grains, for example.

Gluten Free usually means a company is stating that their product contains at least less than 20 ppm of gluten (<20 mg of gluten/kg of food). However, how tested this is varies by company. Some companies test their products to confirm they are gluten free, some do not. Most have at least some protocols in place to try and prevent gluten cross contamination. Most of the companies that specialize solely in gluten-free food DO test.

There are a few grocery guides, like one from a place called cecelia's marketplace, which have lists of gluten free products, or regular products that are considered gluten-free. that can be a HUGE help in the beginning to pick between brands. :-)

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