The gluten-free rice debate

Our son is not celiac, however he has gluten allergy.  If he eats a fraction of a spoonful of rice that is not labeled “gluten free”, he immediately shows signs of anaphylaxis (swelling/itchy lips, mouth and a tickle in his throat). 


Over the years I’ve found myself in debate with chefs and dietary gurus about gluten free rice.  I’ve been told that rice does not have gluten.  I even had an Executive Chef in a high-end restaurant google the subject on his iphone and show me that rice is gluten free.  He insisted that the rice pudding he had prepared for our son should be safe. (Despite me specifically stating that the rice used, MUST be gluten free).  I graciously declined the desert; knowing it was in my son’s best interest.

Here’s the thing: Interestingly enough, when buying it, consumers have a choice on the grocery aisle shelves: regular rice vs gluten free.  That has baffled me because I assumed it has gluten, otherwise, why would companies go through the expense and exercise of certifying their product as gluten free, whilst the bag on the shelf next to it does not have the stamp?

Without getting wordy and too technical (as many of the reports and findings I’ve been scanning over on the subject are), suffice it to say that rice is a naturally gluten free whole grain, HOWEVER…….many varieties contain gluten?! WHY?

For those of us with Celiac Disease and gluten allergy,  we need to understand why a non-offensive food should not be trusted UNLESS it bears the “Gluten Free” Certification.

Here’s one excerpt I found: “Meanwhile, in the U.S., Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, a nutrition consultant specializing in gluten-free diets, arranged for gluten-testing of 22 retail samples of inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours. She found contamination of 20 to 2925 ppm in seven of 22 samples, putting them over the proposed FDA limit of 20 ppm, with lower levels in some others. Both articles point to the importance of gluten-free certification even on foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as millet.?(USA) 
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. June 2010; 110(6):937-40.”

Q: Why is a naturally gluten free whole grain testing positive for gluten, and in some cases at higher levels than is safe for someone with CD or gluten intolerance?

A: Co-mingling of grain & seed can occur anywhere along the line; from the field to the processing & packaging process.

So there you have it, rice is and is not gluten free. Only the varieties labelled Gluten Free are our insurance policy that they are safe for consumption for people with CD and gluten allergy.

Our journey of navigating our family’s way through a multitude of these allergies and and several other allergies & intolerences has led to a lot of food experimentation.  My favourites in the gluten free grain world include:

RICE Alternative:

“Lundberg” GF white & brown rice varieties and rice cakes 





PASTA Alternative:

I highly recommend “Tinkyada” GF white & brown rice pasta varieties. In my experience a lot of rice pastas are chewy and icky. Tinkyada is a no fail pasta to cook. It has great flavour and is light and flavourful.





Whether it be gluten, dairy, egg, wheat, oats, rye, barley allergies, click here for a full list of my recommendations for common food substitutions.