Many products use the g* icon on their products to indicate that they do not use gluten ingredients. This is supposed to indicate that they are certified gluten free. Unfortunately, this labeling shortcut is in no way reliable for celiacs.

The inherent problem is that this is only used to denote products whose included ingredients do not contain offending items. It ignores processing contamination. For example, the g* label is frequently given to products that are manufactured on shared equipment. A grocery chain that I frequently find this is Trader Joe’s. I’ve run across this on dozens of products there. Take, for example, this sauce:

Hardly gluten free when it is made on equipment shared with wheat.

“But BostonCeliac,” you might ask, “it says that their vendors use good manufacturing practices to segregate ingredients and avoid cross contamination, etc.” That’s great, and something I appreciate … up until the point where the final manufacturer runs the product through a contaminated machine. All that sentence says is that their vendors use good practices. The next sentence concludes that they do not.

For that matter the V icon is supposed to indicate a vegan product. Knowing a few vegans, many of them the would not consider something made on shared equipment with eggs, milk, and fish to qualify.

These icons are not regulated. So, as usual, approach all “helpful” shortcut labeling with care. Read the actual ingredients before ingesting.