Is Mountain House food gluten-free?

Mountain House is a popular brand of freeze-dried backpacking and emergency preparedness food. With a wide selection of meals to choose from, Mountain House has become a go-to option for backpackers, preppers, and anyone looking for lightweight, long-lasting food for outdoor adventures or emergency kits.

One common question from customers is whether Mountain House food is gluten-free. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it is critical to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Consuming gluten can cause serious health issues for those with gluten intolerance.

So is Mountain House food gluten-free? The short answer is that most, but not all, Mountain House meals are gluten-free. The brand indicates gluten-free options with a “GF” label on its packaging. However, some meals contain wheat, barley or rye and are therefore not suitable for gluten-free diets.

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at:

  • What is gluten and why must some people avoid it?
  • Mountain House’s label and guarantees regarding gluten
  • Which Mountain House meals are gluten-free and gluten-containing
  • Serving and storage considerations for avoiding cross-contamination
  • Other frequently asked questions about Mountain House and gluten

Let’s start with a brief overview of what gluten is and why it is a concern for many consumers.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and other closely-related cereal grains. The two main proteins that make up gluten are called gliadin and glutinen.

When flour from these grains is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form an elastic network that gives bread dough its chewy texture. Gluten helps baked goods like bread maintain their shape and rise properly.

However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. Even small amounts of gluten can cause symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue and more.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects around 1% of the population. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is less understood but may impact 6% or more of the population. The only treatment for celiac patients is strict adherence to a 100% gluten-free diet.

With gluten found in many common foods like bread, baked goods, pasta and cereals, sticking to a gluten-free diet can be challenging. This makes it important for those avoiding gluten to understand whether packaged foods like Mountain House contain this problematic protein.

Mountain House’s Labeling and Guarantees for Gluten

Mountain House is aware that many of its customers require gluten-free emergency food. Here is some background on their labeling and guarantees when it comes to gluten content:

  • GF Symbol – Products marked with the GF symbol have been tested to verify they contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This level is generally accepted as gluten-free.
  • Note About Oats – Mountain House uses certified gluten-free oats, meaning the oats themselves test below 20 ppm gluten. However, anyone with celiac disease should consult their doctor before eating oats, even if certified gluten-free.
  • Manufacturing Process – Mountain House states that the production lines for its gluten-free meals are thoroughly sanitized after any gluten-containing production run. Separate equipment is used for gluten-free runs.
  • Testing – Mountain House periodically tests both its gluten-free and gluten-containing products to ensure proper labeling and separation.

Adhering to strict standards for equipment sanitization and ingredient testing provides additional assurance for customers who need to avoid even trace amounts of gluten.

Now that we understand Mountain House’s approach to labeling and manufacturing of gluten-free products, let’s look at specifics on which meals contain gluten and which are suitable for gluten-free diets.

Gluten-Free Mountain House Meals

The majority of options from Mountain House are gluten-free. Here is an overview of the main gluten-free Mountain House product lines:

Just in Case…Essential Buckets

The Just in Case… 72-hour emergency food supply buckets from Mountain House come in several gluten-free varieties, including:

  • Just in Case… Classic Bucket
  • Just in Case… Breakfast Bucket
  • Just in Case… Lunch & Dinner Bucket
  • Just in Case… Fruit & Snack Bucket

The Classic Bucket provides a balanced selection of gluten-free breakfasts, entrees and desserts. The other three buckets focus on breakfast items, lunch/dinner entrees or fruits and snacks – all in gluten-free versions.

These buckets offer hassle-free emergency kits for those with gluten intolerance, providing 36 meals or 72 servings of gluten-free food sealed in Mylar pouches with a 10+ year shelf life.

Gluten-Free Individual Entrees

Nearly all of Mountain House’s individual entrees or meal packs are labeled gluten-free, including top sellers like:

  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Chicken Teriyaki
  • Lasagna with Meat Sauce
  • Chili Mac with Beef
  • Spicy Southwest Chicken and Rice

So if you see the GF symbol on the front of a Mountain House meal bag or box, you can purchase it without concern over gluten content.

A few examples of Mountain House entrees containing gluten include Rice & Chicken and Noodles & Chicken. But there are plenty of gluten-free alternatives.

Breakfasts and Desserts

For breakfast, popular gluten-free choices include:

  • Scrambled Eggs with Bacon
  • Granola with Milk and Blueberries
  • Breakfast Skillet

On the dessert side, gluten-free options include:

  • Raspberry Crumble
  • Apple Crisp
  • Chocolate Pudding

So whether you’re looking for a hearty breakfast before hitting the trail or a sweet treat to satisfy a backpacker’s sweet tooth, Mountain House has you covered.

Gluten-Free Sides and Snacks

To supplement their larger meals, Mountain House offers a variety of gluten-free sides and snacks like:

  • Mexican Rice
  • Whole Grain Pilaf
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Chewy Granola Bars

These portable sides and snacks are handy for adding extra calories, variety or a quick bite on the go.

Mountain House Meals Containing Gluten

While Mountain House’s selection of gluten-free foods is extensive, there are some products containing wheat, barley or rye that must be avoided.

Examples of Mountain House meals containing gluten include:

  • Beef Stew
  • Chicken Fried Rice
  • Rice & Chicken
  • Noodles & Chicken
  • Homestyle Biscuits and Gravy

Always double check your Mountain House package for the presence or absence of the GF symbol to confirm it is gluten-free.

Some additional things to watch out for:

  • Oatmeal – Regular rolled oats contain gluten. Only certified gluten-free oats are safe.
  • Flavors/Varieties – A meal may be gluten-free in its original flavor but not in other flavors. For example, Beef Stroganoff is GF but the Rice Pilaf flavor is not.

Avoiding Cross-Contamination

When preparing your Mountain House meals, keep in mind some tips to prevent cross-contamination with gluten:

  • Clean Surfaces – Make sure cooking/dining surfaces have been cleaned and sanitized before preparing gluten-free dishes.
  • Separate Supplies – Use separate utensils and cookware for gluten-free meals than those used for regular, gluten-containing meals.
  • Wash Hands – Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling gluten-free food.
  • Check Packages – Ensure all ingredients used are certified gluten-free, including any oils, seasonings or condiments.

Following basic hygiene and food safety practices helps avoid accidental gluten exposure when cooking your Mountain House meals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some other common questions about Mountain House and gluten:

Does Mountain House have any gluten-free certification?

No, Mountain House does not currently have formal certification (such as GFCO certification) for its gluten-free production facilities. The company relies on internal testing and labeling procedures.

What about allergens like wheat and barley?

Mountain House does list allergens like wheat and barley on meal labels. So you can also look for “Contains: Wheat” versus “Contains: No Common Allergens.” However, the GF symbol provides the most reliable indicator.

Can I prepare Mountain House gluten-free meals the same as regular meals?

Yes, you can prepare and cook Mountain House meals according to the standard instructions, whether they are gluten-free or not. Just be sure to watch for cross-contamination.

How long do pouches last after opening?

After opening a pouch, the meals should be consumed within 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place. Unopened pouches last much longer. So it’s ideal to only open what you will use soon.

Is freeze-dried food as healthy as fresh food?

Freeze-dried meals won’t be quite as nutrient-dense as fresh food. But the process preserves most vitamins and minerals surprisingly well. For trips where fresh foods aren’t practical, they provide a relatively healthy convenience option.

The Bottom Line

Mountain House makes it easy for those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or other reasons for avoiding gluten to enjoy delicious, satisfying meals on their outdoor adventures and emergency kits.

While not every single Mountain House meal is gluten-free, the vast majority are. Just look for the clear GF symbol on packaging. Plus Mountain House takes care in their facilities and labeling to provide confidence to customers who need safe, gluten-free options.

So for your next backpacking excursion or emergency food supply, rest assured that Mountain House has plenty of gluten-free meals to choose from.

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