Reading Food Labels

ATTENTION: Updates to this labeling section based on the finalized FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Law are coming soon. In the meantime, please visit the following websites for more information.

Key Points:

There are many ingredients that sometimes cause confusion for people on a gluten-free diet. You really don't need to worry about the following foods or ingredients listed below.1 Visit the Simple Label Reading, Labeling of Allergens and the FDA vs USDA sections for more information on ingredients.

  • Blue cheese (unless wheat, barley, rye, or malt is included in the ingredients list or Contains statement)
  • Caramel - a food coloring (even if wheat is listed as the source)
  • Distilled Alcohol
  • Glucose syrup (even if wheat is listed as the source)
    • Dextrose
  • Maltodextrin (even if wheat is listed as the source )
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • The term "natural flavor"
  • Sorbitol and other sugar alcohols (xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, etc)
  • The single word "spice" or "spices"
  • The single word "starch" in FDA-regulated foods
  • The single word "vinegar"
  • Whey

Ask Yourself: How many of these ingredients have you been avoiding and didn't need to?

  1. None.
  2. One or two - just a few. I'm glad I read this page.
  3. Many. I'm relieved to know I can increase the variety of my foods.

IMPORTANT NOTE about Dextrin and Modified Food Starch: Unless a product is labeled gluten-free, avoid products containing wheat-based dextrin and wheat-based modified food starch. For more information, visit the FDA vs USDA sections.

Take Home Messages:

In general you can eat foods containing blue cheese, caramel, dextrose, distilled alcohol, glucose syrup, MSG, maltodextrin, natural flavor, spice, starch, sorbitol, vinegar, and whey.

Gluten-Free Nutrition Resources:

Gluten-Free Dietitian Newsletter. Accessed October 19, 2011.

Thompson T, Brown Marlisa. American Dietetic Association's Easy Gluten-Free: Expert Nutrition Advice with More than 100 Recipes. John Wiley and Sons. Hoboken, NJ, 2010


  1. Thompson, T. ADA Pocket Guide to Gluten-Free Strategies for Clients with Multiple Diet Restrictions. American Dietetic Association. Chicago, IL, 2011.

Revision Date: 8-29-12
Author: Tricia Thompson, MS, RD
Editors: Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN and Daniel Leffler, MD, MS