Let’s assume the basic ingredients are gluten-free and uncontaminated. Does that mean the food made from it is safe?
Not necessarily. Here’s why.
At home, at restaurants, even in factories, there is no guarantee that gluten will stay out of your gluten-free food.
Gluten Free At Home
The easiest place to control your gluten free diet is at home. This may seem like a chore to you, and it is. But no one cares about your health more than you do, so if you can’t keep your food gluten-free, who can?
If your entire household is gluten-free, then your job is much easier. But if you share your house with gluten-consumers, you have to be very careful that gluten-containing foods don’t make it into your food. Here are some classic ways that gluten can enter your food in a mixed kitchen:
- Crumbs in butter or margarine
- Crumbs in jam, honey etc.
- Crumbs on the counter during gluten-free food prep
- Stirring two pots with one spoon (e.g. stirring gluten-free pasta and regular pasta with the same spoon)
- Accidental use of wheat-containing foods
- Improperly washed pots
- Sharing a toaster with one used for wheat toast.
This is not a complete list but it does give you the idea.
Gluten-Free at Restaurants
Eating out on a gluten-free diet can be very hard. You can quiz the server and the cook as much as you like, but everything that applies to home contamination applies to a restaurant, only more so.
Most restaurant cooks do not have time to be careful. You’d think that since food is their business, they would know what contains gluten and what doesn’t, and all the different names wheat goes by.
Actually, you can’t depend on this at all. Some cooks are as savvy as you would expect them to be, and more so. Others don’t have a clue.
When you’re starting your gluten free diet, you are better not to eat out at all. If you’re on an elimination diet, I highly recommend avoiding restaurants or you may never know if gluten really effects you or not.
Later, when you feel better, you may consider risking eating at a restaurant, but do realize that this is very risky, especially if you have celiac disease.
Gluten-Free Food From the Factory
Now you would think if the label says “gluten-free” then the food is free of gluten, right?
The answer is: sometimes yes, sometimes no.
In the USA, labeling laws are better. In Canada, they are not so good.
I think you can more or less depend on “made in a gluten-free facility”.
The problem is cross-contamination. If equipment is used to handle both gluten-free food and wheat-containing food, then it is easy to see how a little gluten might make it into your food.
And a little is far too much.
The Best Way To Stay Gluten Free
The best way to stay gluten-free is to buy and make your own food.
This is time-consuming, and very much harder when travelling, but it is possible.
If you’re going on an elimination diet to test your sensitivity to gluten, you are best to eat at home.
If you have a gluten allergy or celiac disease, you may find it very hard to make everything from scratch all the time. It is worth the effort (in my opinion). But you can’t be sociable and only eat at home!
Be very choosy about what you eat, and don’t be shy about double-checking the quality of what you eat. Make sure that it is gluten-free!