Reading the information on a food package is your first defense against cross contamination (click here to read the introduction to this series on cross contamination of gluten free foods.) Here are specific things to look for:
♦ Read the “advisory statements”. These statements are totally voluntary and therefore mean whatever the package designers and their attorneys think they mean, but they do provide valuable clues. Examples of advisory statements would be “made on production lines that are also used to manufacture wheat products” (bad news) or “manufactured in a dedicated gluten free facility” (the best possible good news). Other advisory statements would include things like “no gluten ingredients” (useful information but incomplete because it does not address the issue of cross-contamination) or “we can’t guarantee that these products are gluten free” (of course, they can’t, but at least it shows that they are trying).
♦ Read the ingredients list. By law, wheat must be listed since it is considered one of the major allergens. Avoid products containing malt, since this is almost always made from barley. Reject any products containing rye. Reject any products containing oats, unless you are sure that those oats are ‘certified’.
♦ Keep in mind that the front of the package is designed to sell you the product, and the back is designed (hopefully), to help you make decisions about it. An example: wheat (not soy) is the principle ingredient in most soy sauce.
♦ Do some research. My favorite list of safe and unsafe products is published at the the Gluten Free Living website.
♦ Double check when you get home. My wife and I get careless even after 12 years of gluten free living. ‘Mistakes’ go directly to the food bank supported by our church.
These suggestions should help you avoid problems cause by foods that became cross-contaminated during the manufacturing process. Next, we will turn our attention to problems that originate in your kitchen.