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Gluten Free But May Contain Wheat

You’re walking through the supermarket when you see a new product marked gluten-free.

You read the ingredients like you always do and notice “May Contain Wheat” at the bottom.

Do you buy it?

Products that contain 20 PPM (parts per million) or less are considered gluten-free in the United States and many other countries.

Would you consider this a safe product? Why or why not?

About John Libonati

John Libonati
Author Information: John Libonati, Philadelphia, PA Publisher, Glutenfreeworks.com & The Gluten Free Works Health Guide. Editor & Publisher, Recognizing Celiac Disease.
  • Marjorie Lou holder says:

    No I wouldn’t because if I really want to follow my diet I will go h some and fix something from fresh meat, vegetables, and Glutten free seasoning. Fresh fruit. I really like Glutten free cake. Buy it when they have it at this one store in town. If not water melon is great , even ice cream.

  • No. That is a red flag for Celiacs. Data is showing that even those who are completely compliant; extremely careful, self advocating, experienced, etc., still have elevated levels of antibodies indicating ingestion of gluten. Some are starting to wonder if a completely GF diet is possible. This is why the search is on for medicine that can block the autoimmune response. There is a great deal more to discover, and many scientists are working on pieces of the puzzle.

  • Lynne says:

    I am a coeliac from the UK. My observation with both gluten-free foods containing wheat, barley, oats and rye even when stringently tested to be 20ppm or less is I get glutened from it. What I find very disappointing with the UK, EU and the US is that Australia and New Zealand and surrounding islands have gluten-free food and for it to be labelled gluten-free it must not contain any detectable gluten, oats or their products, cereals containing gluten that may have been malted, or their products. In other words, if a product contains cereal grains it cannot be labelled gluten-free no matter how tiny the amount of gluten it contains. This is usually written as < 3ppm. Why are the coeliacs in the UK, EU and US not treated as fairly as this and given a better chance at having a healthy life? If it can be successfully produced at less than 3 ppm (no detectable gluten) in one part of the world then surely it can be produced everywhere. It has been less than 3 ppm in Australia and New Zealand for years now. I think the rest of us would like the same consideration shown to us too!

    • You make a great point, Lynne. Australia and New Zealand have used 3PPM for at least 10 years that I know of. 20PPM didn’t make any sense when the US government was determining the max level. It was doctors like Alessio Fasano and groups like GIG and CDF who said 20PPM was ok. We wrote in during the comment section requesting 0 or undetectable levels and not made from gluten containing grains. The Celiac Sprue Association used 5PPM. The 20PPM assumes people are eating the recommended daily allowance of calories. People in the United States eat 3 times that amount, therefore the amount of gluten they would ingest would be over the amount needed in grams to cause damage. I’m going to make a video describing this.

  • Dick L. says:

    First you have to consider why you care: are you a celiac, have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, are allergic to wheat, or are you avoiding gluten in general because you think modern gluten-containing grains are a danger to human health. (Or it could be something else– those are just the four things that come immediately to mind.) The worst of these is the wheat allergy– you don’t want to need to jab yourself with an epipen because the product actually did contain some wheat.

    If you’re in the celiac or NCGS categories, if the portion of the product you eat does contain some wheat, but is still under the 20ppm level and you can tolerate that level of gluten, then you’re okay. But if you react to lower levels of contamination, or if the 20ppm is true for the whole container of the product (if the whole thing were ground up, mixed well, and then tested), but some portions actually contain most of the wheat content and might work out to 50 or 100ppm, you could be in trouble. So in that case it depends on the nature of the product– is it a homogeneous product like a flour or a bread, or something like a granola bar that might not be uniformly mixed.

    And if you can tolerate wheat, but avoid it and other gluten-containing grain for general health reasons, it’s safe to ignore the warning.

    Personally, as a celiac, the warning makes me uneasy, and if there is an alternative product that doesn’t carry that warning, I’d avoid the one that might contain wheat. But if it seems to me that it’s just a legal disclaimer sort of warning, or included out of consideration for those with a wheat allergy, I’d probably go ahead and buy it. I have bought products with that sort of warning and not had any problems that I recognized.

  • Terry says:

    As a non-celiac, gluten intolerant person, I do not have a problem with the labeling. If my reactions to gluten were life threatening, however, I’d stay away from any items which MAY contain wheat…Personally, I ONLY get stomach cramps, lasting ONLY a few hours, which feel like giving birth to ONLY a 10 lb. baby (or watermelon)!

  • Barbara says:

    I was never happy with the decision to label gf something that had very little gluten.. What if I eat several items in one day, or every day, that have just “a little” gluten…then I’ll be getting a lot of gluten…I think it was a bad decision but, as usual, was approved for one reason $$$$$$$$$$$.

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