Does Old El Paso taco seasoning contain gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause serious health issues like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, fatigue and more. Because of this, around 3 million Americans follow a strict gluten-free diet by avoiding foods and products containing gluten.

For those on a gluten-free diet, reading ingredient labels carefully and looking for “gluten-free” claims are important ways to identify safe foods to eat. With so many products on shelves, it can be tricky figuring out if everyday items like taco seasoning contain gluten or not.

This article will explore whether or not popular taco seasoning mixes from Old El Paso contain gluten. We’ll look at the ingredients lists of Original Taco Seasoning, Low Sodium Taco Seasoning, and other varieties to see if wheat or gluten-containing grains are included. Taco shells and other accompaniments will also be considered. By the end, you’ll know what Old El Paso taco products can be enjoyed on a gluten-free diet.

Do Old El Paso taco seasoning mixes contain gluten?

The good news is that Old El Paso’s traditional taco seasoning mixes do not contain gluten, making them a safe option for gluten-free diets.

Here are some of the most commonly used Old El Paso taco seasoning mixes and their ingredients:

Original Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients: Salt, sugar, paprika, spices, onion, garlic, citric acid, anti-caking agent (tricalcium phosphate), extractives of paprika

Low Sodium Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients: Salt, sugar, paprika, spices, onion, garlic, maltodextrin, citric acid, anti-caking agent (tricalcium phosphate), extractives of paprika

Reduced Sodium Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients: Salt, sugar, paprika, spices, garlic, onion, maltodextrin, citric acid, anti-caking agent (tricalcium phosphate), silicon dioxide, extractives of paprika

Mild Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients: Salt, sugar, spices, onion, garlic, maltodextrin, citric acid, anti-caking agent (tricalcium phosphate), extractives of paprika

Traditional Slow Cooker Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients: Salt, sugar, paprika, spices, onion, garlic, chili pepper, maltodextrin, citric acid, anti-caking agent (tricalcium phosphate), extractives of paprika

As you can see from inspecting the ingredients lists, wheat and other gluten-containing ingredients are not present in any of Old El Paso’s standard taco seasoning mixes. The seasonings contain spices, vegetables, and other gluten-free ingredients flavored with paprika and chili pepper.

This means that those with celiac disease or following a gluten-free diet can safely use these traditional taco seasoning products from Old El Paso without worrying about gluten exposure.

Are Old El Paso taco shells and kits gluten-free?

In addition to the seasoning mixes, Old El Paso also sells taco shells and taco meal kits that pair the seasoning with shells and sometimes sauce packets or other ingredients. Here’s a look at the gluten-free status of some common Old El Paso taco accompaniments:

Old El Paso Crunchy Taco Shells

The traditional yellow corn taco shells sold by Old El Paso are gluten-free. They are made from corn flour and do not contain any wheat ingredients.

Old El Paso Stand ‘N Stuff Taco Shells

The crispy Stand ‘N Stuff taco shells are also gluten-free. They are made from corn flour and corn starch without wheat.

Old El Paso Hard Taco Kit

The Hard Taco Kit pairs the Original Taco Seasoning with crunchy corn taco shells, making it another gluten-free option.

Old El Paso Soft Taco Kit

This kit contains corn tortillas that are gluten-free along with the Original Taco Seasoning mix.

Old El Paso Dinner Kit for Tacos

Most Old El Paso taco dinner kits also use the gluten-free seasoned beef mix, taco shells, seasoning packets, and taco sauce that are all gluten-free. However, a few may contain flour tortillas, so it’s still important to check the ingredients on all kits to be safe.

In general, combinations using corn tortillas or shells along with Original or other gluten-free seasoning mixes will be suitable on a gluten-free diet. But double-check if wheat tortillas are included just to be certain.

Are Old El Paso flour tortillas gluten-free?

While the corn tortillas and taco shells are gluten-free, Old El Paso’s flour tortillas are NOT gluten-free. Varieties like the Soft Taco Flour Tortillas, Fajita Flour Tortillas, and Burrito Flour Tortillas are made with enriched wheat flour as the first ingredient.

Those who need to avoid gluten should not eat these flour-based tortilla products from Old El Paso or use them in meals. Sticking to the corn tortillas is the best alternative for gluten-free diets.

What about other Old El Paso products?

In addition to the taco seasoning and shells, Old El Paso makes other Mexican-inspired foods and mixes like:

– Quesadilla kits
– Enchilada sauce
– Refried beans
– Rice mixes
– Taco dip kits
– Fajita skillet meals
– Nacho kits
– Salsa

Most of these other products from Old El Paso are also gluten-free, but it’s always important to double check the labels since formulations can change over time. Here are some things to look out for:

– Cheese-containing products are fine since most cheese is naturally gluten-free. But some processed cheese sauces may have thickening agents added.
– Look for mixes with corn flour vs. wheat flour.
– Make sure beans don’t have wheat-based thickeners.
– Rice and salsa are typically gluten-free, but check to be safe.
– Sauces and seasonings should be gluten-free, but watch for change in formulations over time.

Calling the company with any questions is another way to verify the gluten-free status of Old El Paso items. Overall, most of their products tend to be gluten-free, making them a good brand choice for gluten-free lifestyles. But taking the time to read labels is advised.

What about cross-contamination risks?

When a product contains gluten-free ingredients, but is produced in a facility that also processes wheat-based foods, there is a risk of cross-contamination with gluten.

Many people who are extremely sensitive to gluten have to avoid foods with cross-contamination risks. For Old El Paso products marked “gluten-free” this is less of a concern.

However, their traditional seasonings, shells and kits are not marked “gluten-free” even though they do not contain gluten ingredients. Old El Paso states online that some products share manufacturing and production areas with gluten, so the risk of cross-contamination exists.

For people who need to avoid all traces of gluten, this may be a concern to keep in mind with Old El Paso’s food products. The company does maintain gluten-free kitchens and follows allergen control procedures, but there is still a chance of cross-contact.

Should you eat Old El Paso taco seasoning on a gluten-free diet?

Based on an analysis of the ingredients lists, Old El Paso’s core taco seasoning mixes appear to be gluten-free. They do not contain any wheat, barley, rye or other gluten sources. The same goes for their yellow corn taco shells. Kits combining the seasoning and shells are also gluten-free.

However, Old El Paso does note shared production equipment with gluten ingredients. While they take precautions, the risk of cross-contamination means their products are not guaranteed gluten-free.

Most people following a gluten-free diet can safely eat small amounts of Old El Paso taco seasoning occasionally as the level of gluten through cross-contact would likely be minimal. But people with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive should exercise more caution and look for brands that are certified gluten-free if trying to avoid any gluten exposure.

Overall, Old El Paso taco seasoning mixes contain no gluten and should not directly contain harmful levels of gluten through cross-contamination. But there are potential risks that make the products unsuitable for those requiring a 100% strict gluten-free diet with no chances of gluten exposure.

What do experts say about Old El Paso and gluten?

Many experts in gluten-related health conditions consider Old El Paso products to be “gluten-safe” but not certified gluten-free. According to Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), Old El Paso taco seasonings are a good option, but may not work for those highly sensitive:

“Old El Paso taco seasoning is considered gluten-safe. Many notify GIG that they use small amounts without reactions. However, Old El Paso seasonings contain a minimal amount of maltodextrin in the ingredients. People who are extremely sensitive need to avoid maltodextrin unless derived from corn, rice or potato starch.”

GIG also states that Old El Paso shares production lines with wheat-based foods, so there is a risk of cross-contact. But they consider small servings of the seasonings to be safe for most gluten-free diets.

Celiac.com similarly lists Old El Paso taco seasoning, shells, kits and sauces as “likely safe” but not guaranteed:

“Old El Paso taco seasonings contain no gluten-containing ingredients. However, Old El Paso does not claim to process foods in a gluten-free environment. Those extremely sensitive to trace gluten should avoid.”

So in summary, while Old El Paso taco mixes themselves are gluten-free based on ingredients, the manufacturing methods and potential for cross-contamination should be considered. Speak to your doctor if you are unsure about consuming Old El Paso products on a gluten-free or celiac diet.

Conclusion

After analyzing the ingredients lists on their seasoning mixes, taco shells, and kits, Old El Paso taco products do not contain gluten from wheat or other grains. However, the risk of cross-contamination means Old El Paso does not guarantee their products to be 100% gluten-free.

Most gluten-sensitive people can likely safely consume small, occasional amounts of Old El Paso taco seasoning and shells. But those with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive should use extra caution and opt for certified gluten-free brands if trying to totally eliminate gluten exposure through cross-contact risks.

When in doubt, thoroughly read all labels and check for any recipe or manufacturing changes over time on Old El Paso items. Consulting with a doctor is also advised to see if small amounts of these seasonings fit into your particular gluten-free diet needs and sensitivities.

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