Is cheese safe for people with celiac disease?

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
Q: Is cheese safe for people with celiac disease?

Answer


All plain hard cheeses should be fine unless they have added ingredients like spices, seasoning, or starches, thickeners, and anti-caking agents. etc., all of which potentially could contain gluten. These added ingredients can often be found in processed cheeses, soft spreadable cheeses, cheese dips or shredded cheeses. Read labels carefully and look for a gluten-free label. If there is no gluten-free label, look for these 6 food ingredients to avoid: wheat, barley/malt, rye, oat, and brewer’s yeast.

Examples of common cheeses that are gluten-free in their natural state:

Brie
Cheddar
Colby
Gouda
Monterey Jack
Mozzarella
Muenster
Goat cheese
Parmesan
Pecorino Romano
Feta
Swiss cheese

Note:

  • Ricotta, cottage cheese, cream cheeses, and shredded cheeses are usually gluten-free, but some may have additives, always check the ingredient label.
  • Always check the label on non-dairy cheese alternatives as they are processed products that contain many ingredients.
  • When getting cheese from the deli counter, make sure they use a clean slicer and surface, as well as new gloves to avoid cross-contact from other products.

What about blue cheese?

There has been much debate over the safety of blue cheese in the celiac community over the years. Blue cheese is sometimes injected with mold strains grown on gluten-containing media. However, the consensus is that it is unlikely that this would cause blue cheese to contain more than 20 parts per million gluten (which is considered a safe concentration for people with celiac disease) based on previous testing by the Canadian Celiac Association. However, avoid blue cheeses that list wheat, barley, or rye ingredients on the label.

References:

NCA. Confusing Ingredients in The Gluten-Free Diet:

https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-resources/confusing-gluten-free-diet-ingredients/

Reviewed October 21, 2022.

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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