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How Do You Eat Gluten Free?

How Do You Eat Gluten Free?

How to Eat Gluten Free

So you’ve been diagnosed, and told to eat a gluten free diet. What does that mean? It means avoiding foods that contain: Wheat, rye, barely, oats (read our position statement on oats below), or any other derivatives of the above. Avoid cross contamination by avoiding products with statements such as ‘may contain gluten’.

This seems like a daunting task at first, but once you know what you’re doing it becomes easier.

However, there are many other foods that contain ‘hidden’ gluten. For more information see the Common Sources of Gluten page.


(Contain gluten unless stated otherwise)
  • bread
  • pasta
  • buns
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • dried packet soup
  • stuffing
  • luncheon meats
  • sausages
  • beer
  • crackers
  • pizza
  • breakfast cereals
  • pies
  • bagels
  • cheesecake
  • wraps
  • gravy

What about OATS?

Gluten is the name given to the protein in wheat, rye, barley and oats. It is a composite name representing - gliadin in wheat, hordein in barley, secalin in rye, avenin in oats. Malt (barley) and pilcorn are separate categories from wheat, but are NOT gluten free either.

The current laboratory tests can only measure gliadin, hordein and secalin - not avenin as it is a slightly different protein.

When gluten free oats are discussed, it means they are free from wheat contamination (gliadin, hordein and secalin).

Avenin is an essential part of oats and will never be truly gluten free even if they are described as being gluten free. Research by our patron Dr Robert Anderson has shown that approximately 1 in 5 people with CD react to pure, uncontaminated oats.

Since we cannot determine who is the one in five is who react to pure oats and we know that gut damage can occur even without symptoms, the advice of both Dr Anderson and Coeliac New Zealand is that oats should not be consumed. The only exception is if you receive a gastroscopy/biopsy before commencing eating oats, and after you have been consuming them for a time. This is currently the only test that can say whether it is safe for you to consume oats on a gluten free diet.


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There are many foods you can still enjoy on a gluten free diet. Gluten free food falls into the following categories:

Naturally Gluten Free Foods
Many foods are naturally gluten free. These include: fresh fruit, vegetables, rice, potato, corn, plain meat (not sausages), fish, eggs, cheese, milk, most yoghurts, pulses (peas, beans and lentils), fats and oils. There are many grains that are naturally gluten free, for a full list please refer to our list of Gluten Free Grains/Flours.

Products Labelled Gluten Free
Products manufactured in New Zealand and Australia, can only be labelled ‘gluten free’ if they contain 'no detectable gluten'. However there are many imported products which are not labelled under the New Zealand food labelling law.

Products displaying the Crossed Grain logo
These are certified by Coeliac New Zealand, and are independently tested to be safe for people, with coeliac disease and those on a gluten free diet. So look for products that carry the Crossed Grain Logo when doing your grocery shopping, it provides assurance that a product is safe and will eliminate the need for label reading.

Products that are Gluten Free by Ingredient
In New Zealand and Australia any ingredient in a product that is derived from wheat, rye, barley or oats, must be declared on the ingredients panel. Note though that this only applies to products that are manufactured in New Zealand and Australia.

What's the Difference between "Gluten Free" and "Low Gluten"?

As mentioned above, New Zealand and Australia hold all food products to a specific set of standards. The gluten free and low gluten standards are defined by Food Safety Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).  NZ and Australia's gluten free standard is the strictest in the world and is defined as 'no detectable gluten'. Currently test kits can detect gluten down to 3 parts per million (3ppm). FSANZ also has a low gluten standard of less than 200ppm or 20mg per 100g. These products are safe to eat for people on a strict gluten free diet.

All "Gluten Free" products and ingredients have to comply with the standards as defined by FSANZ:

  • Standard 1.2.3 – 4: Mandatory declaration of certain foods
    or substances in food
  • Standard 1.2.7 – 13: Nutrient content claims
  • Schedule 4-3: Gluten Free Definition

If a product label says "Contains Gluten", "Contains traces of gluten" or "Low-gluten" it can often have sources of gluten that are not included on the list of ingredients and should therefore be avoided by individuals following a gluten free diet. Coeliac New Zealand does not recommend "low-gluten" products (as per the FSANZ standard) as safe for those with coeliac disease. We support both the 'gluten free' standard as defined by FSANZ and the International CODEX definition of gluten free (less than 20 parts per million) as suitable for a coeliac diet.

Precautionary statements such as "May contain traces of gluten" are not legally required to be included on product labels. The use of such statements may result in the food being eaten by someone "at risk" or in the food being avoided by individuals when it is safe. The best option is to directly get in contact with the food manufacturers for further information as avoiding all foods with this precaution may not always be necessary.

Who Should I Contact if I Have Accidentally been "Glutened"?

If you are concerned that a food manufacturer have failed to declare gluten as a food allergen on their labels, or information about this is misleading, please contract the Ministry of Primary Industries NZ (MPI) 

0800 00 83 33


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Coeliac New Zealand is available throughout your journey. As part of our community, you’ll get support, advice, and assistance. We work with health professionals, manufacturers, and researchers to raise awareness of coeliac disease in NZ.

Together, we can reach a day when every person with coeliac disease gets diagnosed quickly, lives a healthy life, and has the prospect of a cure.


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