Stop playing telephone with nutritional information! Playing telephone means that you talk to Susie, Mary, Beth, and Gabrielle in order to determine if something is gluten free rather than going to the source yourself. I’m going to make some suggestions for getting nutritional information. I want you to be confident and self sufficient in your gluten free diet. Here are some suggestions.
Chain restaurants provide nutritional information on their websites. Sometimes it might be hard to find, but it certainly is the right place to start. McDonalds, Wendys, Arbys, Chick Fil A, Whataburger, etc. all have nutritional information on their websites. When ordering, order something that is gluten free and then tell the order taker you have an allergy.
If the chain restaurant has servers, then you can be armed with what is already gluten free. Order something from the gluten free menu. While ordering, confirm with the server their allergen protocols. Then make a decision about how safe you feel. Hopefully, you can enjoy a safe meal.
I think you should spend as much as you can afford on a meal. The higher end places will have better protocols and more knowledgeable staff regarding allergies. Here’s a little story.
My husband and I had a dinner with a business associate planned. I had called the restaurant to ensure they offered gluten free items. A person in our party got Covid and had to cancel last minute.
We were out, dressed up, no reservation, and in an unusual part of town for us. There was a restaurant nearby I wanted to try. It was a no-go – it was a deli. I didn’t know until we got there. Next door was another restaurant. We looked at the menu. All allergens were marked and the only fried item on the menu were the french fries. We had a lovely, safe meal we had not planned nor researched. We just got lucky. Sometimes you just get lucky!
Items at the grocery store should be easier but it can become overwhelming. Here are some tips
Buy items without a label. Fruits, vegetables, non-blue cheeses, dairy, eggs, chicken, pork, and beef should create the bulk of your meals.
Buy items that are certified gluten free. Certified gluten free means a third party tested the item to ensure it was below 20ppm. Some certifications are even more stringent, but any level of certification is good.
Buy items marked by the manufacturer as gluten free. In the US, manufacturers have rules about what can be labeled gluten free and what cannot. Large manufacturers will abide by these rules to ensure they don’t get fined.
The one caveat to the “if it is labeled gluten free rule” is that smaller manufacturers may not truly understand gluten free labeling rules. They might mislabel something as gluten free when it truly isn’t. Just be careful with smaller, regional brands.
Next Set of Rules
This should cover 90% of the groceries purchased. Next is where things get a little muddier. There is more risk with the items in the next section.
Items with no gluten containing ingredients and no gluten free label. This one is a toss up. If it is simple, like peas and the ingredients are peas. I’ll eat it. If it something with a lot of ingredients, I will typically pass.
Wheat is a top 8 allergen and must be in bold on the label. Barley and rye are not a top 8 allergen and are not required to be in bold on the label. Barley and rye are gluten containing grains, among others. They can be anywhere in the ingredient list. Know that finding barley or rye in an item is a lower risk, but it is still something to be aware of.
Items with a known gluten ingredient are not safe.
Schar products contain a Codex Gluten Free Wheat starch. It is wheat starch that has had enough of the gluten removed to ensure it is safe for those with celiac disease. It is not safe for those with a wheat allergy.
Alcohol when distilled is considered gluten free. A lot of alcohol is distilled using gluten containing grains, but according to the USDA it is considered gluten free unless additional flavorings are added.
“Processed in a facility that also processes wheat” is a voluntary statement by the manufacturer. Processing facilities are massive. They could process something with wheat 4 football fields away from where they are processing this gluten free item. Or they could be next to one another. Based on the other rules above, this label is simply more information. Typically, I don’t use this statement in my decision making process, but others might.
That’s enough for today. Good luck.