Gluten-Free Food Labelling and Label Reading
When you are required to follow a gluten-free diet, it can be difficult to navigate food labels. While Canada is one of the better regulated countries, there is still an overuse or misuse of precautionary labelling.
Below, you’ll find a link to download our label reading guide, as well as a link to our recent corn statement.
We explain what gluten is, how to read food labels, and provide additional resources, printables, videos, a link to our app, and more to help you eat safely at home and while you’re out!
Thanks to our dedicated volunteer Registered Dietitian Working Group for their time and dedication to put this resource together for gluten-free Canadians.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a general name for specific proteins in certain grains. The gluten in wheat, rye, and barley cause a toxic reaction in people with celiac disease preventing the absorption of essential nutrients.
Gluten-Containing Foods and Ingredients:
- Malt Extract**
- Malt Syrup**
- Malt Vinegar**
- Oat Bran***
- Spelt (Dinkel)*
- Wheat Bran
- Wheat Germ
- Wheat Starch
* Types of wheat ** Derived from barley *** Small amounts of pure, uncontaminated oats are safe for those with celiac disease, however the availability of pure oats remains a problem. Most commercially available oats are contaminated with wheat or barley.
How to Read Food Labels
New food labelling regulations in Canada came into effect on August 4, 2012 that apply to all packaged food sold in Canada, no matter where it was manufactured. The regulations require that the ten priority allergens, gluten sources, and added sulphites of 10 ppm be identified using plain language either in the ingredient list or in a Contains statement that appears immediately after the ingredient list. Manufacturers have a choice about which method they choose to use.
When you check for gluten, you may need to check two places:
- The WARNINGS section – CONTAINS, MAY CONTAIN.
- The INGREDIENT list
Step 1: Warnings.
Start with the WARNINGS. You are looking for wheat, rye, barley, oats or gluten. If you see wheat, rye, barley, oats or gluten, in either the CONTAINS or MAY CONTAIN list, the product is NOT OK.
If there is a CONTAINS statement, and it does not include wheat or a gluten grain, the ingredients are acceptable for a gluten-free diet.
If the ingredient list just says oats, assume they are contaminated with gluten, unless they are specifically identified as pure uncontaminated oats or by the source (Cream Hill Estates Oats, Only Oats, etc.).
Step 2: Ingredient List.
Plain names must be used for all allergens: WHEAT, MILK, EGGS, etc. Allergens cannot be hidden in ingredients like seasoning or natural flavour.
If one allergen is listed in a CONTAINS statement, then all the allergens including gluten must be listed.
The only warnings that have official meanings are CONTAINS and MAY CONTAIN. All other warnings (“made in a plant that also processes wheat “etc.) can only be understood by contacting the company.
Manufacturers change the ingredients in their products from time to time. A product that does not contain gluten might contain gluten in the future. Products that you might not imagine could contain gluten may have unexpected gluten ingredients. The only way to be sure is to read the ingredient list every time you buy a product.
Below are additional resources to help you become successful at label reading!
Learn to Read a Label for Gluten in 3 Easy Steps
Learn to Read a Label for Gluten in 5 Minutes
Here is a 5-minute video of our Nicole Byrom, Registered Dietitian, explaining how to read labels for gluten-containing ingredients. This is an excellent resource to share with family and friends.