Even though buying products from bulk bins can have price advantages, for the gluten-sensitive shopper they can present a mine field of invisible cross-contamination mistakes. If you choose to buy in bulk, it’s necessary to keep the following in mind:
• If you’re looking to buy gluten-free flours and grains, take a close look at where their bins are located in relation to the bins containing gluten-based ingredients. If the rice flour is in proximity to the all-purpose white flour, you run a high risk of the scoop for the gluten-free rice flour being inadvertently used for the wheat flour and put back into the bin, leaving traces of gluten. Similar scenarios can happen with particles of a glutenbased grain getting mixed into a gluten-free grain and what appears to be a gluten-free trail mix or dried fruit. Your chances of cross-contamination decrease if the gluten-free bin is out of reach from bins with gluten-based foods, but the risk is still present. Be extremely careful!
• Grocery store staff is mindful of properly maintaining the bins, but mistakes, like a gluten-based flour being accidentally poured into a bin labeled gluten-free flour, can and do happen.
• Bulk bins are not always labeled with full ingredient disclosure lists. While many foods may look enticing, it’s hard to be 100 percent sure of what you’re getting.
Bottom Line: Bulk bins are mystery bins, and your safety net is not fully in place when visiting them. Either be extremely cautious and know the possible consequences or avoid them entirely!