You may be surprised to know that some naturally gluten-free products you buy from main brands like, Publix, Kroger, Giant Eagle, etc. may not actually be gluten-free. Nuts, vegetables, and other naturally gluten-free products can be made on shared equipment possibly with wheat. Lately, I've been trying to pay more attention to the labels on the foods I eat. I've always been pretty good about reading labels but the one thing I haven't paid much attention to is whether a product is made on shared equipment or not. You may be aware of what ingredients to look out for or how safe certain products are, but when it comes to food being made on shared equipment, how safe are you?
How safe is a naturally gluten-free product?
Anything like mixed nuts or fruits should already be gluten-free. But if it's distributed on the same equipment as wheat, wouldn't this be a problem? There's really a lot of things to worry about when it comes to being gluten-free and this happens to be one of them. The only person to determine if a product is truly safe for you or not is you. You know your body best and you know how sensitive you are. If you see a product that says, "made in a facility containing wheat", try and think about how it would make you feel. Would you be completely fine eating the product while knowing this? Or would you be a little hesitant and worry about getting sick? Always take mental notes and try to ask yourself how this product really made you feel after eating it.
What "Made on shared equipment" means:
When a product is made on shared equipment, this means that the product is made on the same line as another allergen containing product. If you see a product that says, "made on shared equipment with wheat", this means that the product comes in direct contact with equipment that wheat was previously on.
What "Made in a facility with wheat" means:
When a product is made in a facility with wheat, this only means that wheat is used within the facility. This does not automatically mean wheat was used on the same equipment. Safe practices are usually insured from good gluten-free companies but you can always call a manufacturer for more info on this!
The FDA DOES NOT require this labeling:
"The type of labeling that uses terms such as 'may contain' or 'made on shared equipment' is strictly voluntary and not required by federal regulation." (FDA ~ 2015)
This means that any gluten-free labeled product can be made in a facility with wheat or made on shared equipment with wheat without you knowing.
Where to look for these labels:
You'd actually be surprised at how many "gluten-free" labeled products are made on shared equipment. Whether it be in a factory with wheat, dairy, tree nuts, soy, peanuts, etc, a lot of gluten-free products are made in some type of shared facility. It's important to always read the labels of gluten-free products, not just for ingredients, but for the the "shared equipment" information too.
The most concerning place I have found the label "made on shared equipment" is from the main brand grocery stores. Products from Publix have the label, "made on shared equipment", posted on a majority of their naturally gluten-free products. Any type of nut from Publix says, "made on shared equipment with wheat", which means there is a big risk for cross contamination. Next time you go to the grocery store and plan to buy something from a main brand, really pay attention to the label and make sure that it's not made on shared equipment to be 100% safe.
From my own personal experience, I don't think you can ever be too careful. I personally try to stick to natural foods as much as possible, but even then, this shows that you may not always be safe. Whether you're just starting out at being gluten-free or if you've been gluten-free for years, always read labels on everything you eat. Decide for yourself on what you consider to be safe or not. Like I always say, how I do gluten-free probably isn't the same as how you do it. Just pay attention to your body and learn what's best for you. Next time you buy a product that says, "made on shared equipment" or "made in a facility with wheat", really ask yourself, how safe are you?
Do you feel safe eating a product made from a facility with wheat or a product made on shared equipment? Comment below!