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You Ask, I Answer: Gluten, Soy Sauce, and “Wheat-Free” Labeling

Posted Oct 05 2010 12:21pm

sanj_gluten_free_tamari__45649_stdLast Thursday, I got the results of my gluten panel.  Verdict: I have celiac disease.

Today I had lunch with a coworker at a “health food” restaurant.  We specifically chose it because their menu lets you know which entrees contain soy, gluten, and nuts.

The dish I wanted (which had baked tofu) had a “gluten” sign next to it.  I asked the waitress where the gluten in the dish was coming from.  Her response was: “We marinade our tofu in soy sauce.”

I’m still very new to this gluten thing, but I don’t understand how soy sauce can contain gluten.  Isn’t it just soybeans?

I know I have seen some wheat-free soy sauce, but everything I’ve read so far says that “wheat free” and “gluten-free” are not the same thing.  So, is soy sauce a condiment I can never have again?

I would REALLY appreciate any help you can give me.

– Estelle Nardelli
(City Withheld), NJ

I can’t say I envy you.  As if managing food labels without allergies wasn’t its own Rubik cube, tacking on gluten insensitivity heightens the challenge.

As many people living with celiacs soon learn, there is a long list of preservatives, additives, and wheat byproducts that sound absolutely harmless, but can cause severe problems when consumed.  Soy sauce is one area where I find many individuals with celiac get confused, and sometimes go overboard with restrictions.  Allow me to provide some clarification.

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