Gluten-Free vs. Gluten Friendly : What’s the Difference?

In 2014, the FDA came out with a definition of “gluten-free” for food manufacturers who wanted to use the term on their labels. The set of guidelines they provided for gluten-free labeling also applies to restaurants and bakeries that wish to use the term “gluten-free” on their menus or menu boards.

Let’s take a look at the official guidelines so you can ensure your gluten-free products are in line with the FDA’s standards:

  • The food item must be inherently gluten-free (i.e. a food that naturally doesn’t contain gluten, like tea, coffee, or fruit).
  • The food item must be free of any gluten-containing grains, including wheat, barley, spelt, rye, kamut, or einkorn.
  • The food must not contain any substances made from gluten-containing grains that have been processed to remove the gluten (i.e. wheat starch).
  • The food item has fewer than 20 ppm of gluten if it is prepared in a gluten-containing facility where cross-contact may occur.

It’s important to keep in mind that since gluten-free labeling in restaurants and bakeries is voluntary, establishments do not have to label their foods as gluten-free even if they meet the above criteria.  There is no designated gluten-free symbol, nor a specific place where the gluten-free claim must appear on your menu or menu board.

Here are few more terms to help clarify things:  

Gluten Friendly: This is a term used by many restaurants that specialize in gluten-containing foods (i.e. pizzas, sandwiches, etc.) but also offer gluten-free options. It implies that the food may not be entirely gluten-free because it is prepared in the same kitchen as gluten-containing foods but that it is okay for those with mild gluten sensitivities

Made Without Gluten: This term indicates the product was intentionally made without gluten while leaving room for the fact that cross-contamination could have occurred.

Wheat-Free: Wheat has the highest concentration of gluten of all grains, and many people who are sensitive to gluten do consume grains with lower gluten content, like spelt, rye, and barley. Just remember that just because a food is wheat-free does not mean it is gluten-free.

At Fresh & Natural, you can enjoy the ability to know exactly what is in the food that you are purchasing.  We go the extra mile to ensure that our products are nothing but clean products (no artificial fillers, additives, or preservatives).  Look for the Red Label to indicate that the food item is Gluten Free.  We have premade mixes from gluten-free pizza crust mix to gluten-free brownie mix as well as frozen food items ( e.g., Canyon Bakehouse gluten-free bread).  In our deli, all of our offerings are made from scratch and have detailed labeling as to the content of each food product.

We look forward to serving you!



Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: She will look forward to meeting you!