If your child was diagnosed with celiac disease, you want to do everything in your power to keep them as healthy as possible. One important skill you -- and your child -- will need to learn is how to read food labels to avoid food containing gluten, such as wheat, barley and rye.
Registered Dietitian Kara Feigenbaum, RD, CDCES, LDN, from the Center for Celiac Disease at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, offers a 5-step process you can use when reading food labels to determine if a product is gluten-free and safe for your child to eat.
Label Reading for Gluten
Kara Feigenbaum, RD, CDCES, LDN: A gluten free diet is currently the only treatment for celiac disease. Label reading is an important skill to have when following a gluten-free diet. A food label will help you identify if a product contains gluten and if it is safe for your child with celiac disease, to eat.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Today, in this video, we are going to discuss our five step process for label reading to determine if a product is gluten free.
Step 1: determine if the product is naturally gluten-free. Naturally gluten-free foods include fresh meat, chicken, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables and dairy. These products are often found in the outer perimeter of a grocery store. If a product is naturally gluten-free, then it is safe to eat and does not have to say, gluten-free on the label.
Step 2: for all packaged goods and mixed meat or mixed dairy products, look for the term, gluten-free on the label. According the food and drug administration's gluten-free labeling ruling, if a package good is labeled gluten-free, that means the product must be tested by the manufacturer to have less than 20 parts per million of gluten in it. This is considered safe for those with celiac disease. The product would also be safe if it is listed as 'without gluten, free of gluten or no gluten.' Some companies choose to go through additional testing to ensure that their product is safe for those with celiac disease. If you see any one of these symbols on a food label, then this would be a safe choice on a gluten-free diet.
Step 3: If a product is not naturally gluten-free and the label does not say gluten-free, the next step is to identify if there are any gluten containing ingredients in the product. Gluten containing ingredients to look for on a label include: wheat, barley and rye. You may also see derivatives of these grains on a label such as: malt flavoring, which is made from barley, or semolina which is made from wheat.
Here is a list of gluten containing ingredients to avoid when looking at a food label.
Step 4: Look for the 'may contain wheat or processed in a facility with wheat' statement. These are voluntary advisory statements placed on a product by the manufacturer. If you see one of these statements on a label, but it is also listed as gluten-free, then this product would be safe to consume for someone with celiac disease since it's been tested to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
If the product does not say gluten-free, then it is best to avoid these products, especially for individuals who are just starting out on a gluten-free diet to ensure maximum intestinal healing and symptom resolution.
Step 5: Contact the manufacturer. If you ever are unsure if a product is safe for your child on a gluten-free diet, call the manufacturer contact number listed on the label or reference their website. You will often find the products gluten status under their frequently asked questions section on their website.
Examples of products that may contain gluten, where a manufacturer verification is needed are listed here.
Following these five simple steps will help you become an expert at reading food labels for gluten. This will help your child with celiac disease stay safe and health.
The staff at the Center for Celiac Disease at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is here for our patients to answer any other questions you have about label reading. For more information, please visit our website at CHOP.edu/celiac.
Related Centers and Programs: Center for Celiac Disease, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition