For the gluten-free living apprentice, the “wheat-free” label can be a trap. This is a classic example that illustrates the importance of understanding gluten-free semantics. “Gluten-free” automatically means “wheat-free,” because a gluten-free product cannot contain any ingredient derived from the species of wheat. However, “wheatfree” on a package that does not also specify “gluten-free” does not necessarily mean the product is gluten-free. For example, a product containing rye or barley but not wheat can be legitimately labeled wheat-free, but it is not gluten-free. Also, many products using oats but not wheat are often labeled wheat-free, but as the cross-contamination issue continues with oats, you must base your decision to buy this product on your known tolerance level of oats. If the oats are not pure, gluten-free, the product will not be gluten-free because of the likelihood of cross-contamination with wheat.
Then what about wheat-free soy sauce or tamari? Typically, traditional soy sauce is made with wheat and contains gluten. But soy sauce is not made with rye or barley. So, if a soy sauce brand says “wheat-free” but not “gluten-free,” you can be sure it’s gluten-free as well. This may sound contradictory to the information just stated, but again, it’s important to know your gluten-based and gluten-free ingredients to understand products accurately.
Caution: Some baked products utilizing spelt (a species of wheat)
have been misbranded in the past as “wheat-free.” You may still find misbranded products in small independent stores and bakeries. It’s not uncommon to find bakers and other product manufacturers who are unfamiliar with the gluten-free diet and its labeling protocol, and think spelt and other wheat-related grains are wheat-free. A search on the Internet will reveal numerous companies that inappropriately claim that spelt is wheat-free.