Video: Can Foods Labeled Gluten-Free Include a May Contain Statement for Wheat?Tricia Thompson
Another question we are frequently asked at Gluten Free Watchdog is whether foods labeled gluten-free can include a “may contain wheat” statement on product packaging. Please watch the video to find out the answer. And please let me know if you have any questions. Note: I have been asked to provide a transcript for all of the videos. These videos are “off the top of my head.” Transcripts are not available. Update: A wonderful subscriber to GFWD who happens to do transcription professionally volunteered to transcribe this video. Thank you to Corbin’s mom! For the time being the transcription is included in the comments section.
A wonderful GFWD subscriber (aka Corbin’s mom) volunteered to transcribe this video. Please know that I speak differently than I write (and I am resisting the urge to “rewrite” this transcript). Please use this transcript in conjunction with the video.
Video Transcription: Can Foods Labeled Gluten-Free Include a May Contain Statement for Wheat?
Hi, everyone. This is Tricia Thompson from GlutenFreeWatchdog.
Another question that we receive all the time is whether foods that are labeled gluten-free can also include a “may contain” statement for wheat. And the answer is, yes. Now, it’s important to understand the differences between “contains” statements for wheat and “may contain” statements for wheat. So please make sure to also watch the sister video that is all about labeled gluten-free foods and “contains” statements so that you understand the difference. I’ve worn the same color sweater in that video so it should be easy to find.
So back to “may contain” statements. These statements are used by manufacturers when there is the potential chance of cross-contact with wheat or other allergens during processing. So this is different from a “contains” statement which is regulated under FALCPA and has to do with actual ingredients. So “may contain” statements you may see processed in the same processing plant as wheat, processed on the same line as wheat, processed using the same equipment as wheat. When it comes to gluten-free foods, the gluten-free claim trumps a “may contain” statement. Meaning, that if a food is labeled gluten free, regardless of a may contain statement, it must contain less than 20ppm of gluten.
The other thing to understand which is I think really confusing for consumers, is that because these statements are not regulated, some manufacturers choose to use them and some manufacturers choose not to use them. And they appear to have very little bearing on the amount of gluten in a final food product. Now, a few years ago, my colleagues and I did a grain contamination study. Where we looked at naturally gluten-free grains and flours that were not labeled gluten-free and we tested them for gluten. But we also looked to see whether they had a “may contain” statement for wheat. And what we found is that for some of these products that tested well above – some of these grains and flours testing well above 20ppm of gluten, did not include a “may contain” statement for wheat.
On the other hand, we found products that tested below the lower limit of quantification for gluten, which is 5ppm that did include a “may contain” statement for wheat. So in other words, you could have gone into the grocery store and picked up two bags of the same naturally gluten-free grain, not labeled gluten-free, and if you used the “may contain” statement to help make your purchasing decision, you could in fact have purchased the product that contained more gluten, that was actually contaminated. So this is why we really need “may contain” statements to be regulated by the FDA. And I also just want to point out that because of issues with cross-contact, it really is important that when you are buying naturally gluten-free grains and flours, that you make sure to purchase those products that are labeled gluten-free.
I hope this has helped. If not, please send me questions. I can always clarify and I can always post another video. Thank you so much.
If gluten free grains may contain gluten from cross-contamination, and gluten free claims trump “May contain…” stateents, what should we make of claims that foods are, “Always naturally gluten-free” , “Naturally gluten-free”, or “gluten-free by nature” ?
Thanks for all your research and insight
Hi Suzanne, Sorry for the delay in responding. If “gluten-free” is part of the labeling claim then the product must be in compliance with the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rule. Claims considered synonymous with gluten-free include “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten.” BUT the wording you provide in your examples give me pause. My concern is that manufacturers are not testing and wrongly assuming that (for example) a naturally gluten-free grain such as millet is always gluten-free and never contaminated wheat, barley, or rye.