Label reading: When same is not the same

Whether you are starting out on a gluten-free diet or a “seasoned veteran”, there is no escaping label reading. As a mother of a celiac child for over a decade, I can’t expound on the importance of label reading.

In a global city like Singapore where grocery shelves abound with products from all over the world, Careful label reading is imperative on a gluten free diet! Five years in Singapore has taught me never to get overly comfortable with the products I buy – formulas change, suppliers change, and one cannot simply rely on mere recognition of the product (even one you have been using for years).

The same product often can have a different recipe and different allergens depending on where they are manufactured due to local availability of products, production lines in a facility, and cultural preferences. Also, many major food companies such as ConAgra and Kellogg’s have manufacturing plants all over the world.

Sneaky Suspect #1: Pasta Sauce

Big jar, small jar, same thing right? Apparently not! Prego Traditional Pasta Sauce is my go-to pasta sauce when I’m making spaghetti and meatballs for the kids. Careful checking of the ingredients, however, showed me that there were different ingredients and allergens between the large and small jar!

The large family size Prego jar is a product of the USA and has a gluten free label on it whilst the small prego jar is a product of Malaysia and lists gluten on the ingredient list.

Thankfully, careful label checking saved me from a gluten disaster!

The large family Prego jar is a product of the USA and has a bold gluten free label right on the side of the jar.

The small Prego jar was manufactured in Malaysia and lists gluten on the ingredient list.

Sneaky Suspect #2: Cereal

Many assume that since corn is a gluten free grain, corn flakes should be gluten free. Sadly, many cereal manufacturers sweeten their products with barley malt. Although that sounds “healthier” than using refined sugar, using malt adds gluten to the cereal, making it a bad choice for those who can’t ingest gluten.

In the USA and Australia, many major manufacturers have removed barley malt as an ingredient in of their cereals.  Unfortunately, this is not a global change.  Kellogg’s cereal manufactured in South East Asia, for example, lists malt as one of the ingredients.

In other words, you may want to check the ingredients of the cereal box you purchase, especially if you are a fan of (typically) gluten free Rice Krispies.

In conclusion, don’t get too comfortable with the familiar, bring your “magnifying glass”, and always check labels. The extra time in the grocery store will be worth it to avoid getting glutened!


About the Author:

One Degree Gluten Free is Singapore's Hub for Gluten Free Living