If a Product Does Not Contain Gluten Ingredients, Why Isn’t It Labelled Gluten-Free?

The Canadian Celiac Association Answers the Facebook Question of the Monthgluten free labeling

Why doesn’t <product x> have a “gluten-free” claim on it? There are no gluten ingredients listed.

  • Printed with the permission of the Canadian Celiac Association 1

In Canada, not having gluten ingredients is just one of three criteria for a gluten-free claim.  The other requirements are that the food must meet the criteria of a food for special dietary use and it must not contain gluten from uncontrolled contamination in the ingredients or manufacturing process.

A food for special dietary use is “... a food that has been specially processed or formulated to meet the particular requirements of a person a) in whom a physical or physiological condition exists as a result of a disease, disorder or injury;”. In other words, a gluten-free food must be specifically made for someone with celiac disease.

A jar of jam may not contain any gluten ingredients but it cannot be labelled “gluten-free” unless the manufacturer takes specific steps to confirm that there is no gluten.

Because a product must meet all three of these requirements to make a “gluten-free” claim, there are many products on the market that are safe for someone with celiac disease, even though they do not carry a gluten-free claim.

Low Risk

Some of these products are essentially unprocessed including fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, dairy, and meat. Others are products where no gluten ingredients are used in most or all of the products in the category including jams and jellies, butter, yogurt and cheese.

High Risk

There are some products that are at a higher risk for gluten contamination. The CCA recommends that you look for a “gluten-free” claim on those products. They include baked goods, breakfast cereals, flour and nuts. For lower risk products, we recommend that you make your decision based on the ingredient labelling information provided on the package.


*The Canadian Celiac Association is the national voice for people who are adversely affected by gluten, and is dedicated to improving diagnosis and quality of life. They welcome all Canadians with “a gluten problem.” Learn more at www.celiac.ca

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