I would say this was my most successful gluten-free Thxgiving yet. Just look at this beautifully stuffed plate of GF foodz:
But even though my extended weekend went off without a glutenous hitch (I was feeling better to boot), I couldn’t help but be a tad irked by my family’s well-meaning but highly annoying inquiries into whether this or that was gluten-free.
People with Celiac friends and family:
WE KNOW WHETHER IT’S GLUTEN-FREE OR NOT BY READING THE INGREDIENTS. AND IF IT ISN’T, YOU DON’T HAVE TO REMIND US NOT TO EAT IT.
I know you’re just interested in our well-being, but here’s the thing: I know you can read. Is wheat one of the ingredients? How about barley? Rye? Malt vinegar? Okay then. Now you can decide whether it’s gluten-free.
Now, I’m not a mean person. I know you want to be sure. Even though the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires the top eight allergens (which includes wheat) to be declared on all product labels in bold, some of those words are confusing, and some of them even sound like they should be contaminants (MALTodextrin anyone?).
So, in the interest of helping all of us out, here’s a quick run-down of what to look for when cooking gluten-free.
Questionable ingredients now deemed gluten-free include:
- Maltodextrin (see!)
- Glucose Syrup
- Carmel Coloring
- Citric Acid
- Distilled Vinegars
- Hydrolyzed Plant Protein or Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HPP or HVP). Labels are not required to say from what plant or vegetable the protein comes from; for example, corn protein or wheat protein, so this should be clear.
- Modified Food Starch. It will need to be labeled Modified Wheat Starch if necessary.
- Natural and Artificial Flavor or Flavorings. While these have been culprits in the past, companies are now required to state whether natural or artificial flavorings use hydrolyzed wheat protein to enhance flavor. A label would read like this: natural flavors (hydrolyzed wheat protein). However, sometimes barley malt extract/syrup is being added, and labels may not identify that, so one still must be careful with natural flavorings. Unfortunately, this often requires some trial and error, or a call to the manufacturer.
- Starches The single word “Starch” on a food label in the USA refers to corn. If other starches such as corn, tapioca or wheat are being used, they must be declared. Easy enough.
- Dextrin is also used as a thickener or binding agent and is usually made from corn, potato, tapioca, rice and wheat. If wheat is in dextrin, the label will read, Wheat Dextrin.
- Herbs and Seeds in and by themselves do not contain gluten
- Individual spices do not contain gluten, but blended spices may carry a wheat starch, in which case wheat will be in parenthesis after the word spice. For example, Jerk spice (includes wheat).
I know that was tedious, but if you really cook often for someone with gluten intolerance or Celiac issues, print it out and put it in your wallet. That way you never need to ask, “Is this gluten-free?” again. You’ll just know. And trust me, that means a lot.