KEY POINTS:

  • When you read a food label there are three major labeling statements you may see related to allergens and gluten:
    • "Gluten-Free" This is a gluten-free label . If a manufacturer uses this label there are rules they must follow.
    • "Contains: wheat" This is an allergen label . The law says that manufacturers must label the top allergens. Visit Simple Label Reading to learn about the top 8 food allergens.
    • "May contain wheat" and "Processed in a facility that also processes wheat" These are voluntary allergen advisory statements . These statements are not defined by any federal regulations.
  • Unlike 'allergen labels', 'allergen advisory statements' DO NOT have to be included on the food label.
    • These statements have to do with where and how a food is processed. For example: Is a food made without wheat processed in the same plant as a food made with wheat?
    • Some manufacturers use these statements. Many others do not.
    • If you have an allergy to wheat you should not eat food containing an allergen advisory statement for wheat. 1
    • If you have celiac disease it is OK to eat a food containing an allergen advisory statement for wheat IF it is labeled gluten-free. You may see this situation in grain-based foods that are labeled gluten-free.

TAKE HOME MESSAGES:

  • There are three main types of allergen and gluten statements. 
    1. Gluten-free claims are defined by federal regulations. 
    2. Contains statements are defined by federal regulations. 
    3. May Contain or allergen advisory statements are not defined by any federal regulations. 

  • Foods with an allergen advisory statement for wheat may in some cases be safe for people with celiac disease. However, these foods should be labeled gluten-free.

Reference:

  1. NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel. Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States. Report of the NIAID Expert Panel. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010;126(6Suppl):S1-S58.

Revision Date: 12-18-13 
Author: Tricia Thompson, MS, RD 
Editors: Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN and Daniel Leffler, MD, MS

CeliacNow Disclaimer