Reading Ingredient Labels – Is There Gluten In that Product?

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A reader alerted me this week that Kraft Foods’ Good Seasons Italian Dressing now contains wheat. As with any product ingredient question, I went to the source to confirm.

kraft front labelI called their customer service number and spoke with a representative who cautioned that any of their products including “spices” as an ingredient should be avoided for those who are gluten sensitive. She explained that the “spices” ingredients come from outside suppliers, and there is no guarantee that they are truly gluten-free.

kraftHow can I tell if a Kraft product contains gluten?

Gluten content can almost always be determined from the label, and the most accurate information can be found by checking the ingredient list on our packages. For labeling purposes, Kraft includes wheat, barley, rye and oats as sources of gluten. Our packages identify gluten by listing these common sources.

Other grains that contain gluten are triticale, spelt, kamut, mir and farina, and if these grains are included in our products, they will also be labeled.However you should know that we do not guarantee that our products are gluten-free because we sometimes purchase flavoring, color or spice ingredients from suppliers who do not list every possible source of gluten beyond what is required by law.

We do not have a list of gluten-free products and, unless labeled as such, do not guarantee that our products are gluten-free. Formulations and ingredients change too frequently to ensure that such lists are always up-to-date and accurate.

We highly encourage you to carefully read the ingredient statements on all food labels each time you make food selections. This enables you to obtain the most accurate ingredient information for the specific products you select. It also allows you to get the most current information since ingredients in products may change over time.

Kraft has also published a helpful article on label reading their products, in particular.

kraft back labelWith regard to Kraft’s Good Seasons Italian Dressings, the only packets that are currently being manufactured are Fat Free; Zesty and Mild. The Fat Free variety DOES now contain WHEAT. The other varieties do not list wheat as an ingredient, but they do contain “spices.” The representative could not confirm whether the addition of wheat to the Fat Free variety was a new change, but she did confirm that since the regular “Italian All Natural” variety is no longer on the site’s product list, they are not currently manufacturing it.

Knowing that many manufacturers turn to McCormick® for their ingredients like spices, I contacted them with my ingredient questions. According to McCormick’s customer service representative, their policy is to list gluten, wheat or barley if it is included as an ingredient above a trace amount.

mccormickAre McCormick Products gluten free?

Since the late 1990′s, McCormick has used “Plain English” allergen labeling to communicate our product ingredients to our consumers. Gluten is listed as “wheat” or “barley” in our ingredient statements. This labeling policy adheres to the FDA regulations that were implemented as of January 1, 2006.

If a product does not have an ingredient statement, it is a pure spice or herb with nothing added and contains no added glutens. In addition, the alcohol in all of our retail extracts is not from grain and is gluten free. All Food Colors are gluten free.

Because we are constantly improving our products, we do not offer a list of our products that do not currently contain glutens. We encourage you to read the ingredient statement on your package at the time of purchase to ensure accurate, up to date information.

In addition, we follow good manufacturing practices at our plants. Our employees are trained in the importance of correct labeling and the necessity of performing thorough equipment wash-downs to eliminate cross-contact of ingredients.Although we cannot guarantee our products to be 100% free of allergens not listed on the label, we want you to know that we take this situation seriously and have taken extra precautions to eliminate the possibility of mislabeling or cross-contact.

mccormick back label 1All McCormick’s single ingredient spices include nothing but the spice, and their spice blends like Italian Seasoning and Salad Supreme Seasoning, contain no gluten. In some seasoning mixes, such as their Burrito Seasoning Mix, wheat is an ingredient (their Taco Seasoning Mix does not contain wheat).

Bottom line: Both Kraft® and McCormick® are taking proactive steps to give consumers information regarding gluten in their ingredients. However, because the FDA has not yet acted to finalize federal gluten-free labeling regulations, neither company is yet willing to make an affirmative gluten-free statement about their products. Clearly the products like Good Seasons Fat Free Italian Dressing which contain wheat on their ingredient labels are NOT gluten-free. But when a company will not make a claim about other products which contain “spices,” simply because they cannot be held responsible for what their ingredient supplier might have added to the spice ingredient, it is time for some common sense.

Lest we all run away in fear of any product that lists “spices” on the ingredient label, here is your dose of common sense:

“Spices, herbs and seeds do not contain gluten. Although an anti-caking agent may sometimes be added to spices, it is often silicon dioxide, calcium silicate or sodium aluminum silica and NOT wheat flour or wheat starch.”

“Seasonings,” however, are a different matter. By “seasonings,” we mean seasoning blends and mixes like gravy and taco mixes. These often DO contain gluten, because they are blends of spices (not containing gluten) and a carrier agent like salt, sugar, lactose, whey powder, starches or flours like wheat.*

*Quotes and references attributed to Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide, Revised and Expanded Edition 2010, Shelley Case, RD.

So read those ingredient labels for every product you purchase! And read them again the next time you purchase, as ingredients DO change (See Katie Chalmers’ post on Good Seasons in her cabinet!). Don’t let your knees start knocking at the sight of “spices” on ingredient labels, though. Take heart knowing:

  1. spices are gluten-free;
  2. the most likely sneaky gluten addition to anything containing spices would be wheat – which by law must be called out on the ingredient label; and
  3. if there were any extremely rare and unlikely gluten contaminant in “spices,” it would be found in such a small amount as to contain an insignificant, trace amount of gluten (i.e. nowhere near 20 ppm)

With seasoning packets (like gravy and taco seasonings) though, use caution. Many, if not most, do contain gluten in the form of wheat which will be called out on the label.

Ultimately, whether you purchase or use a product is only up to you. But armed with facts, you can make the best decision for you and your family.

PS – If you would like to encourage Kraft to return to its gluten-free Good Seasons formulations, call their customer service number at 1-800-522-0501 and tell them it matters to you!

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One thought on “Reading Ingredient Labels – Is There Gluten In that Product?

  1. Dear Kraft,
    I am writing you to express my desire and wish to encourage Kraft to return to its gluten-free Good Seasons formulations Since you changed your formula’s and ingredients my options and choices has seriously decreased. Please understand the growing numbers of Gluten Sensitivity, Celiac and Wheat Allergy victims are alarming. Of all things in the world, I miss my KD…would you please consider providing a Gluten-Free Kraft Dinner option? Life is not easy being hungry and afraid to eat. Please have mercy, perhaps pioneer a specialized line dedicated to those of us who battle 24/7 365 to find things safe to eat that we enjoy and leaves us feeling nourished.