Not All Cheeses Are Created Equal (or GF!)

I recently received a question from a loyal reader (I just love saying that! Thanks Beth!) about cheeses. While most cheeses are safe to eat on a gluten-free diet, there are a few that aren’t. Here’s the scoop.

Blue cheeses such as Roquefort, Stilton, Limburger and Gorgonzola (or any other “moldy” or ripened cheese, for that matter, like Brie and Camembert) may NOT be acceptable on a GF diet. Unfortunately there is no one, clearcut “yes” or “no” answer to the general question “can I eat blue cheese on a gluten-free diet?” This is simply because different types and brands of moldy cheeses are produced differently.
A Moldy Lesson: The blue veins of molds found in blue cheeses are sometimes cultured on breadcrumbs or other wheat-based ingredients and then injected into the cheese (speeding up the maturation process) and are, in this case, decidedly NOT gluten-free. But often in modern manufacturing practices“the mold is typically acquired from more standardized sources and does not contain gluten” (pg 129, “Healthier Without Wheat” by Dr. Stephen Wangen). And sometimes smaller batch, handcrafted blue cheeses are allowed to age naturally, with just microbes introduced into the curds and allowed to settle and mature in the aging room, without the artificial introduction of gluten-conatining cultures. These handmade blue cheeses MAY be gluten-free, but there’s no guarantee. And since the ingredients for the mold isn’t generally listed on these cheeses, there’s no way to know if it’s source is GF or not.
Phew! That’s a lot of info! It all basically means that unless you can communicate with the manufacturer and they can guarentee that their mold is NOT from a gluten source, just to be safe, simply avoid all moldy cheeses and you’ll avoid potential gluten.

Cottage cheeses are, for the most part, safe. There’s been some confusion about cottage cheese being unsafe for a GF diet. This comes from the fact that many manufacturers use a “modified food starch” to thicken it. Since sometimes there is no way of knowing if this is a corn, wheat, potato, etc starch, we must avoid anything with unidentified food starches to assure it’s GF status. But as labeling practices improve, as many manufacturers recognize more and more people are living gluten free, labels are beginning to identify the origin of the starch (i.e. “modified food starch (corn)” or “starch (wheat)” will be on the label). FDA regulations require any starch derived from wheat be labeled as such. So if you simply see “starch” or “food starch” or “modified food starch” on a label and it’s not followed by some alert that it contains or was processed on equipment shared with “wheat”, you can safely use that Cottage Cheese.

Other cheeses to be wary of:
Shredded cheeses can often be dusted with flour or starch to avoid the shreds from sticking together. Check ingredients to be sure there’s no hidden gluten ingredients. In particular, check for terms associated with phrases like “to prevent caking.”
Grated cheeses (such as Parmasean and Romano) can contain fillers that derived from wheat
Deli cheeses may also contain fillers and are easily cross-contaminated by the slicer it’s cut on.

Enjoy your cheese! :)

But as always, remember: when in doubt, leave it out!!! :)

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2 Responses to “Not All Cheeses Are Created Equal (or GF!)”

  1. KW 10/13/2012 at 5:17 PM #

    I’ve been Glutened twice in a row over the last 2 weeks, and been extremely sick. I’m usually an annoyingly healthy Celiac who runs 6 miles a day, but when Glutened I can barely hobble 6 steps, and it lasts for 5 days straight.

    By a process of elimination, I have narrowed it down to “Humboldt Organic Fat Free Cottage Cheese”. It does not claim to be gluten free… I just ASSumed… and I guess I’m the ass for doing that.

    Mucho googling today has helped me discover that not all Cottage Cheese is Gluten Free. For example, Organic Valley Cottage Cheese now actually states on the manufacturer website that it’s NOT Gluten Free. And now I read what you wrote about Kroger’s brand 2 years ago. I guess I’m off Cottage Cheese unless it states Gluten Free.

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