Is Cheese Gluten Free?

Elise Deming, RDN
Cheese platter

Cheese is a beloved, dairy based food that people around the world enjoy. But is cheese safe for everyone, including those following a gluten-free diet?

Cheese and Gluten

Cheese is typically naturally gluten-free. Many types of cheeses exist and for most, the main ingredients include milk, a bonding substance such as rennet, acetic acid, or gluconodelta-lactone, and flavoring. Beyond Celiac lists household cheeses that are usually gluten-free including feta, cheddar, goat, parmesan, provolone, swiss, ricotta, and many others.

Although most cheese is safe, there are still some major concerns when purchasing cheese on a gluten-free diet. These include hidden ingredients and cross contamination.

Hidden Gluten

Most cheeses do not contain wheat, barley, oats, or rye, but you should still look out for them on the ingredient list. What some cheeses do contain is wheat starch or modified food starch from wheat as stabilizing or thickening agents. These two starches come from wheat and therefore contain gluten.

Additionally, blue cheese may run the risk of containing gluten, as some producers use bread to help grow mold spores. Some experts suggest there is not enough gluten in the blue cheese mold to be harmful, but the best practice is to call a manufacturer.

Cross Contamination

Similar to any other packaged food, cheese processed in a facility that manufactures other gluten-containing foods is at risk for cross contamination. Additionally, cross contamination presents a risk when eating cheese at restaurants, cafes, and delis. In these situations, the best way to avoid cross contamination is to explain your gluten-free diet and ask for your cheese to be prepared separately on a clean surface with clean tools. Most gourmet cheeses are gluten-free and a great way to ensure processed cheeses are gluten-free is to call the manufacturer and to check the label.

Cheese and Gluten

As a dairy product with minimal added ingredients, most cheeses are gluten-free. However, potential problems may arise when purchasing cheese on a gluten-free diet including the risk of cross contamination and hidden ingredients. If you are ever concerned about the gluten status of your cheese, call the manufacturer and speak with a registered dietitian.

Is Cheese Gluten Free?