Gluten-free products are food items that do not contain gluten. The target audience for these products is typically people who have medical conditions that render them unable to digest gluten, and therefore do not eat products containing gluten. There are two general types of gluten-free products: those which naturally contain no gluten, and those which are specially created to replace foods that normally contain gluten.
Strictly speaking, any food product that does not contain any gluten qualifies as a gluten-free product. Most whole foods, such as meat and poultry, fruits, and most dairy and vegetables do not contain any gluten and are therefore gluten-free products. Individuals who are unable to digest gluten can comfortably eat any of these foods. Since gluten is found in all wheat products, rye, and barley, any foods made with these ingredients are not gluten-free.
People who are gluten-intolerant can adapt their diets to exclude gluten-containing products, but they then often find themselves deprived of a huge variety of foods. Most traditional pasta, for example, as well as any pastries, pizza or pie crusts, and breads made with wheat flour, rye, or barley contain gluten and are therefore off limits. Gluten-free products were created in response to this problem, and help add variety to the diets of people who cannot eat gluten.
Some popular examples of gluten-free products are the different variations on wheat flour that are available. Rice and corn flour or cornmeal can be used in recipes in place of wheat flour, so that the resulting foods are gluten-free. Pies, pastas, pizzas, baked goods, and even breads that are made with alternatives to the traditional wheat flour recipes can be made, sold, and marketed as gluten-free products.
Gluten can also be found hidden in processed foods that use artificial color and flavor additives. Gluten-free versions of these foods, which can range from canned pie filling to soy sauce, are usually available. When it comes to pre-packaged items, gluten-free products can sometimes be identified by a marking on the label that demarks them as “gluten-free.” In most cases, however, it is wise to thoroughly check the ingredients list on the package label to make sure there are no gluten-containing additives.
Products such as gluten-free flours, pastas, bread- or baked-good mixes, and crackers can often be found in health food stores, or stores that specifically cater to gluten-intolerant customers. It is possible that a selection of gluten-free products will be available in larger supermarkets as well. Even if a store does not contain a special section designated for gluten-free products, they may be found hidden among the aisles containing their gluten-containing counterparts.