Are products “processed in a facility that also processes wheat” safe?

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Melinda Dennis MS, RDN, LDN
Q: As you probably know, almost all packages of tree nuts now come with the disclaimer "processed in a facility that also processes wheat". It is never followed by that wonderfully reassuring statement that careful manufacturing practices are followed. For some reason I am finding myself reluctant to purchase, use and eat these nuts. For a long time Costco's almonds did not bear that statement, so I was content. Now the statement is on the bag. Advice?

Answer


Manufacturers are required to follow current standards of good manufacturing practice (GMP) that help to reduce the risk of cross-contact. This includes thorough cleaning of shared equipment, etc. However, these GMPs do not mean that the product has been tested for gluten. Nuts AND seeds are two foods that are at risk for potential cross contact with gluten containing grains, particularly in the facility where they are sorted and packaged and despite GMPs being used.

Allergen statements, such as “processed in a facility that also processes foods containing wheat” or “may contain wheat” are voluntary statements; some manufacturers use them and some do not. They are meant to alert consumers to how a food product may have been processed.  

The safest choice is a nut or seed package labeled gluten-free such as, but not limited to, nuts.com (order from the gluten-free zone; they sell nuts, seeds, flours, etc), mygerbs.com (free of 12 common food allergens including gluten; they sell seeds, flours, etc),Wonderful Almonds and Pistachios labeled “gluten-free,” and others. Be sure to avoid bulk bins where there can be a significant risk of cross-contact. 

Disclosure: Melinda Dennis has no current financial interest in the companies listed in this Q & A. Mygerbs.com was a sponsor of Melinda’s Delete the Wheat gluten-free wellness retreat several years ago.

Companies listed above were labeled gluten-free per the manufacturer at the time of this writing. Always check labels for changes which can occur at any time.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Melinda Dennis, NCA's Senior Consulting Dietitian. This information is meant for educational purposes and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. This information can be printed and used in consultation with your physician or dietitian. No liability is assumed by NCA, Ms. Dennis or her nutrition consulting service Delete the Wheat, LLC. by providing this information..

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About Melinda Dennis MS, RDN, LDN

Melinda Dennis, Senior Nutrition Consultant for NCA, is an expert celiac dietitian and and Nutrition Coordinator for the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. Diagnosed with celiac disease in 1990, she specializes in the nutritional treatment of patients with celiac disease and gluten-related disorders.

Melinda lectures internationally and has written extensively on the nutritional management of celiac disease including the award-winning book Real Life with Celiac Disease. Melinda was the original founder of NCA in 1993 and so it is only fitting that she comes back to us in this capacity. We are truly honored to have her on our team.