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by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD
The Gluten-Free Dietitian
You are eating gluten free and planning your first trip to the grocery store but how do you know whether a food is gluten free? Believe it or not, grocery shopping gluten free has never been easier.
Natural food stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, as well as an increasing number of regular supermarkets, sell an abundance of foods labeled "gluten-free." For foods not labeled "gluten-free" you can tell if they are made using gluten-free ingredients by reading the food label.
In general, when determining whether a food product is made using gluten-containing ingredients you are looking for 5 words: wheat, barley, rye, oats, and malt. With a few exceptions, if you see any of these words in an ingredient list or a "contains" statement the food is not gluten free.
This simplified label reading is due in large part to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (otherwise known as FALCPA). This act mandates that if an ingredient in a food product contains protein from wheat, the word "wheat" must be included on the food label. FALCPA applies to foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)--all foods with the exception of meat, poultry, and egg products.
This means that you no longer have to sweat over many of the usual suspect ingredients-modified food starch and dextrin to name a couple. Regardless of whether these ingredients are included in an FDA-regulated food product, if you don't see the word "wheat" on the label the food does not include any ingredients containing wheat protein. It really is that simple.
FALCPA does not apply to barley, rye, and oats but most ingredients that were questionable in the past were suspect because of the possibility they contained wheat. If barley is contained in a food product the ingredient name will almost always include the word "barley" or "malt". Ingredients that contain rye and oats will generally include the words "rye" and "oats".
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