Coeliacs vs “May Contain Gluten”: How to Stop Eating Them

28th August 2020
Blog post

In this blog post, I’m going to explain what a may contain is, why you shouldn’t eat them and provide some tips to help you stop! I’ve ummed and ahhed about whether to write this because I didn’t want to sound like I was telling you what to do… but it was you lot that finally persuaded me to do it so here goes…

I recently asked my Instagram followers if they had any questions they wanted to ask me and I was surprised at how many said: (1) can coeliacs eat foods that say may contain gluten? (2) do you have “cheat days” where you eat gluten/may contains? and (3) how I stop myself eating may contains?

To be completely honest, I’ve never had a “cheat day” and I’ve never been tempted to eat may contains because I know it can cause big problems!! But I wanted to help anyone that needed it!

What is a “May Contain”?

The “may contain” label might say something like this somewhere on the packaging:

  • may contain traces of gluten
  • made on a line handling wheat
  • made in factory also handling wheat
  • not suitable for people with coeliac disease/a wheat allergy due to manufacturing methods.

Sometimes, you can contact the manufacturer and ask why that message is there. It might be just to protect themselves and in actual fact, they’ve got lots of sensible measures in place to protect us from cross contamination. But without finding that out, you can’t be sure how safe the product is and (in the opinion of Coeliac UK and myself!) you shouldn’t eat it.

Why are “May Contains” an issue?

I’m talking to you lovely coeliacs here!!

This is from the Coeliac UK website: “When you see [a may contain statement] on a product, the manufacturer has decided that there is a risk that the product could be contaminated with gluten.”

Basically, you’re risking eating gluten and we all know that can cause you damage, even if you’re only eating a tiny bit.

Yeah but what ‘damage’? Well, the following info is from the NHS website:

How to Stop Eating Gluten/May Contains: Advice from my Instagram Followers

Given I’ve never been tempted myself, I turned to my followers to help with the question “how do you stop yourself “cheating”/eating may contains??”. I’ve gathered their fab responses below.

  • Think of it as poison. Would you eat something that said “may contain poison?”?!?!
  • Still eat something so you’re not missing out but make something delicious and gluten free!!
  • You might not experience symptoms externally, but think of the internal damage you could be doing. Google the long-term health implications of not following a strict gluten free diet (or you can read the NHS list above – my followers actually mentioned all of those conditions – you’re all very clued up ;)).
  • Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t.
  • Find replacements for all your old favourites – Instagram is an amazing place for that. Some substitutes for our faves here. Or just ask me!!
  • Find someone supportive who you can reach out to at that time to stop you eating it
  • Imagine its like a nut allergy so you take it as seriously!

I dont want to scare anyone!!

I just wanted to reinforce why I’m writing this:

(1) I don’t want to be remotely preachy… its your life to live however you want to… but if you want to stop eating may contains because you know the risk you’re putting yourself at, maybe this will help? You can refer back to it whenever you feel the temptation!!

(2) You can send this to all those annoying people who constantly question you when you say you can’t eat may contains, to help explain the severity of it… sometimes coming from someone else helps (fingers crossed!!)

Anyway – hope that helps!

Here always,

Jess x

Want some more coeliac tips?18 Tip for New Coeliacs: My Practical Guide – reading labels, eating out and everything else you need to know


  • Nikki Morris

    6th March 2021 at 9:07 pm

    Hi I found this blog extremely helpful. I was diagnosed coeliac in November and have struggled with labelling and may contain etc. Been sort of scared to eat them and not sure if I should or not. An awful lot of foods I love are now on the forbidden list so I’m finding it a bit hard at times. So thankful for people like yourself who are offering such good advice and product info. I will be an avid follower now!

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