Adding a little flair to taco meat is a necessity. But when you’re adding packaged ingredients to your dish, you’ll need to read the labeling carefully. Sometimes hidden additions to taco seasonings can contain gluten, ultimately making your entire entree inedible if you have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten.
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Navigating the Labeling
Although it’s not mandatory, food manufacturers can use certain terms to let consumers know that their product is gluten-free. “Free of gluten,” “no gluten,” “gluten-free” and “without gluten” are the phrases recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This terminology can only be included on the label if the final product has less than 20 parts per million of gluten, however. If you don’t see these words on your favorite packet of taco seasoning, read through the ingredient list to check for gluten-containing elements.
Ingredients to Avoid
Gluten-rich ingredients aren’t clear every time. You won’t always see the obvious offenders listed -- wheat, rye or barley. Avoid any taco seasoning that contains malt, triticale, wheat flour -- rice or corn flour should be safe -- or a bouillon mixture. These ingredients add texture and flavor to the seasoning, but they can also add gluten.
Contamination in the Plant
Even if you don’t see any obvious gluten-containing ingredients listed on the package, your batch of taco seasoning could still contain gluten. During manufacturing, food producers use their specialized equipment for making an array of products. The same machine that packaged the taco seasoning could be used for packaging a breading mix, for example. So while the taco seasoning doesn’t have gluten in the ingredients, gluten can slip in during the manufacturing process through cross-contamination. In this case, the label should say something like “contains gluten” or “processed in a facility that also processes wheat,” alerting you that the product could contain gluten.
Consider a Homemade Mixture
Natural herbs and spices are gluten-free. Rather than taking a risk with a premade variety of taco seasoning or spending your afternoon reading every package at the grocery store, make your own blend at home. Toss in equal parts of onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, ground cumin and black pepper along with a dash salt. Add paprika, crushed red pepper flakes or chili powder to get that extra kick. If you make a batch of it, you’ll have it on deck for next time, so you’ll never have to think twice about the gluten issue on taco night.