Hidden Sources Of Gluten

Taken from www.celiacsolution.com

Adjusting to the obvious guidelines of a gluten-free diet is challenging and often overwhelming. You soon learn that what is gluten-free today may not be gluten-free tomorrow—mainly because companies can change their recipes, suppliers, or production methods. Don’t despair, as there are many avenues of help available to you. Thanks in large part to Andrea Lavario and her Task Force, congress will soon be requiring companies to list ingredients that heretofore have been disguised under auspicious names such as ‘vegetable protein’ and ‘food starch’  

So what are the hidden sources of gluten?

Non-food items pose gluten challenges. The glue used on lickable envelopes and stamps often contains gluten. Self-stick labels and stickers may contain gluten. Do you use latex or rubber gloves to wash dishes? These are often dusted with wheat or oat flour. Make a phone call to your doctor, dentist, orthodontist and periodontist and request that they use unpowdered gloves. Gluten hides in art supplies, such as paints, clay, play dough, and glue. It is also present in many personal items such as lipstick, lip balm, sunscreen, shampoos, soaps, cosmetics, skin lotions, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Household products such as cleaning solutions, detergents, even bar soap may contain gluten. Fortunately, you can refer to lists on the internet, such as those available at www.celiac.com, for ‘safe’ alternative brands that are available.

Medications frequently contain gluten. Pills may be dusted with flour during manufacturing and capsules may have gluten present in the oil inside. Frequently your pharmacist will be able to tell you if any given medication is safe for you, but you may have to call the manufacturer. Again, there are websites that have gluten-free medications listed (see www.celiac.com).

Oats remain a food of debate. While ‘pure’ oats may be safe for some celiacs, it is very difficult to find ‘pure’ oats that are grown and processed in the U.S.A. Some celiacs are able to consume oats imported from Ireland, while others have reactions to them. Even the safe flours (rice, potato, tapioca, bean) can be contaminated if they are milled or processed in a facility that processes wheat, rye or barley grains. A call to the processing company will tell you if they have machinery and facilities dedicated to gluten-free grains only. If you purchase imported flours from an oriental store, you obviously are not able to contact the manufacturer. Many of the Asian plants are dedicated exclusively to processing rice products, especially those in Thailand, but some are not. It is your personal decision whether or not to trust the purity of items purchased from abroad.


Reading labels is a highly refined art form. Not-so-obvious terms on labels signal gluten, like malt, graham, spelt, kamut. If you pick up a jar of chili powder it may or may not contain wheat flour which can be added to keep it from clumping—but even if it does you likely won’t find wheat listed on the label (McCormick does not add wheat to their spices, however they do not guarantee that their spice ‘blends’ are gluten-free). There are foods that you think are 100% pure, but when you examine the label, other ingredients have been added, like tomato paste. Some tomato paste is made from 100% tomatoes, while other brands add additional ingredients. If you are buying a jar of spaghetti sauce, the ingredients list ‘tomato paste’ but the manufacturer has not been required to tell you what ingredients may have been added to the tomato paste. Rice syrup may use barley enzymes. Yeast may be grown or dried on wheat flour. Coleman’s mustard has undeclared wheat in it. While the wrapper on a chocolate bar lists all gluten-free ingredients, the conveyor belt may have been dusted with wheat flour to keep the candy from sticking. The same holds true for chewing gum, which is often dusted with flour (Food manufacturers are not currently required to list ingredients used in ‘packaging’).

At the grocery store beware of anything that is processed. If it is not a whole food, it may contain gluten. Common culprits include rice or corn cereals, ice cream (wheat is often added to prevent ice crystals from forming), soups, yogurt, snack foods, lunchmeats, sausage, and even ground beef. Shortening may contain vitamin E processed from wheat germ.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more confusing, you find hieroglyphics on labels. Letters like HVP (hydrogenated vegetable protein), HPP (hydrolyzed plant protein), TVP (textured vegetable protein), MSG (monosodium glutamate could contain wheat if made outside of the U.S.A.), and phrases like modified food starch (safe if made in the U.S.A., but may contain gluten if made elsewhere) tell you nothing about what ingredients it may contain. Other confusing ingredients are maltodextrin, stabilizers, binders, fillers, natural flavor, vegetable gums, and mono & diglycerides, to name just a few. Enriched products should be avoided unless you are certain of the sources of ‘enrichment’. See the Safe & Forbidden Lists at www.celiac.com for detailed lists of ingredients and their gluten-free status.

Finally, re-check labels each time you buy a product. Companies change their recipes periodically. Duncan Hines Vanilla Ready-to-Spread Frosting used to be gluten-free, as were Pringles Potato Chips—but both manufacturers recently began adding wheat starch to these products. It should be noted that Duncan Hines received so many letters and calls of protest about wheat being added to their frosting that they have switched back to the original gluten-free recipe—but check the label before purchasing. Product ingredients may change from one batch to another. Cool Whip usually does not contain wheat, but occasionally it is added. Archway macaroons are sometimes made with potato starch and sometimes with wheat starch.


The lists above are not intended to overwhelm you, but to make you more aware of the problem that you face, and to help you become more alert. With practice and time, screening for gluten becomes second nature. Now for the good news! By 2006, food labeling will disclose many of the hidden ingredients now on labels, including wheat (barley and rye do not have to be disclosed, but are used far less frequently than wheat). Kraft Foods is already beginning to post labels reading “Gluten Free” on many of their products; other companies will follow their lead. Many grocery store chains are responding by setting up entire gluten-free sections. Gluten-free companies and bakeries are springing up every day. Food chains are recognizing the needs of celiacs and are catering to this new market—Godfather’s Pizza now offers a gluten-free pizza crust and many restaurants like Outback Steakhouse now offer gluten-free menus upon request. As each month passes, it is becoming easier and easier to identify gluten-free products—and the number of products made for celiacs will continue to grow as time goes on.

Connie Sarros is the author of several excellent gluten-free cookbooks: 
Wheat-free Gluten-free Recipes for Special Diets
Wheat-free Gluten-free Dessert Cookbook 
Wheat-free Gluten-free Reduced Calorie Cookbook
Wheat-free Gluten-free Cookbook for Kids and Working Adults
All of her books can be ordered on-line at www.celiac.com and at her site.  
At the grocery store beware of anything that is processed. If it is not a whole food, it may contain gluten"

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Gluten FreeMore Hidden Gluten

Soy Sauce 
Most contain wheat
Malt Made from barley
Used in some vinegars (malt vinegar only)
Some flavorings or cereals like Rice Krispies
Medications, vitamins and mineral supplements
Ask if they contain gluten
French Fries 
Due to cross-contamination: if cooked with other foods
Processed Foods 
A favorite place of hidden gluten

If you Drink Alcohol


Wine and champagne
Distilled spirits:
Brandy, coffee liqueur cognac, gin, grappa, rum, sake, scotch, sherry, tequila, vodka, wine, whiskey


Malt beverages
Beer (unless it is Gluten Free)
Coolers & Hard lemonade: often contain malt and/or barley