Are strawberries safe for people with celiac disease?

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
Q: Are strawberries safe for people with celiac disease? I have heard that strawberries are grown with rye and are not safe to eat or be picked due to the dust from the grains.

Answer


There are two issues that frequently come up concerning strawberry picking and consumption that cause concern among people with celiac disease:

  1. Rye is sometimes used as a cover crop for strawberries.
  2. Strawberries are sometimes mulched with hay or wheat straw during the growing season to keep the plants insulated from cold weather.

The good news is that neither cover crops nor hay/straw should be an issue as long as you pick through and wash the berries.

I reached out to Gluten Free Watchdog Tricia Thompson, MS, RDN, about strawberries and she said she has tested 6 products containing strawberries, and all tested below the lower limit of quantification for gluten. She also said that if a rye grain or stalk make it into the strawberries it is easily seen and can be removed. She recommends just rinsing the strawberries well to remove any grain or dust.

As a side note, cover crops are also sometimes used when growing vegetables. Cover crops are used in the winter when vegetables are not grown and then it is tilled or pulled under before planting the vegetables. Again, just rinsing the vegetables carefully should get rid of any grain or dust. Note that cover crops should not cause the same problem with berries and veggies as crop-rotation does with oats, as you would be able to pick off any foreign grain mixed in.

What about inhalation from dust from wheat straw or hay?

Wheat straw is usually a harvest byproduct that is left over after wheat has been thrashed and the grain (gluten-containing part) removed. The straw itself does not contain gluten. Hay contains the grain part. I do not think that there would be significant gluten in the air from wheat straw or hay when picking strawberries so this should not be a problem unless you have an allergy to wheat. Even if the grain part is present in hay, the gluten is encased in a hull so it would be very unlikely that it would disperse in the air and breathed in.

You can read more here about inhaling dust from wheat straw.

So, go ahead and enjoy strawberry picking! Just make sure to pick through the strawberries for any foreign grains, wash your hands and rinse the berries thoroughly before eating!

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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