Navigating the grocery aisles can be difficult, and time-consuming, when shopping gluten free. Some large grocery store chains have all the gluten-free items together, but some do not, instead opting to shelve them next to their gluten-containing version. My advice? Walk the entire store, because you’ll be surprised by how differently stores market, display and organize gluten-free items.
A few odd gluten traps to avoid in the grocery store – the Deli and the Produce department. The Deli is a cross-contamination nightmare. Most of the lunch meat available contains wheat, and those that don’t, are sliced on the same machine. Not to mention, all the meats are stored together, and shared equipment is used to package everything. And then there’s the Deli’s hot food counter – don’t even ask. If it doesn’t contain gluten, it’s contaminated with it. As for the Produce department? Avoid the pre-sliced fruit and vegetable trays, because of shared equipment – all that work is done in the Deli.
A grocery store Bakery cannot produce gluten-free items safely, because of all the shared equipment. Even if an item is naturally gluten free, be very leery if it’s been prepared or packaged in the Bakery (or Deli).
When buying meat out of the case in the Meat department, specifically ask the butcher to change gloves before handling anything. Many Meat departments are now doing pre-seasoned meats, which is nice and convenient for grilling, but be careful – ask to see the seasoning’s label and ask about glove changes.
Read the entire label three times, every time: first in the store before putting it in the cart, second at home before putting it away, and third when taking it out to use it. Three times, every time. Be alert! Manufacturers change; vendors change; packaging facilities change.
Below is a classic example of companies making changes, and the reason for “read the entire label three times, every time” rule. Recently, Glutino started adding oats to their cereal bars. Why? I don’t know, they were perfectly yummy without oats. But they did. Problem is? Oats are a red flag for anyone with Celiac or a grain allergy, because of cross contamination in harvesting, processing, storing and packaging. So I called Glutino, and asked about their oats; I was assured they were not contaminated, and their suppliers could be traced back to the field. (I didn’t ask for proof, because it’s a moot point – my son’s allergic to oats too.)
Before heading to the store, don’t forget to print out the ‘No-No’ list!