Are Lentils “Really” Gluten Free?

Your package of lentils may have a statement proclaiming that lentils are “naturally gluten free,” and it is true that lentils, themselves, don’t contain gluten, BUT when lentils are inspected, they typically contain a certain percentage of “foreign grains,” including wheat, barley, and rye which DO contain gluten!

There are several reasons why this can happen:

  • Birds, wind, etc spread seeds from other fields. These seed sprout up in the crop of lentils and are harvested and processed along with the lentils.
  • Grain processing facilities receive grains of all types, and bit and pieces of previously processed grains are often left behind. When the next shipment of grain is processed, those bits and pieces cross contaminate the current batch.
  • Shipment containers are used to transport grain products from grain inspection sites to packaging facilities. These containers haul massive amounts of grain of all types, and this is an easy way to cross contaminate a whole batch of “naturally gluten free” grains.
  • Packaging facilities typically process many different types of grains, and unless the facility is a dedicated, gluten-free packaging facility, cross contamination can occur.

How To Make Lentils Safe For Those Who Are Gluten Intolerant

From what I understand, lentils CAN be made safe for those who are gluten intolerant by doing a visual inspection, removing any foreign grains, and rinsing them thoroughly under running water. Here is a statement from Gluten Free Watchdog that explains the process:

“As a precaution, please make sure to pick through dry lentils carefully and rinse them very thoroughly under running water. This should be done regardless of the presence or absense [sic] of a gluten-free claim. Errant grains have been found in lentils labeled gluten-free, certified gluten-free, and not labeled gluten-free.”