Is Pace salsa celiac safe?

For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, choosing safe foods can be challenging. With so many products containing wheat, barley, rye or oats, it’s important to carefully inspect labels. Salsa is a popular condiment for dipping chips and enhancing Tex-Mex dishes. But is Pace salsa gluten free and celiac safe?

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats. In individuals with celiac disease, the immune system identifies gluten as a foreign invader and launches an attack against the small intestine. This attack damages the villi, which are tiny finger-like projections that line the small intestine and absorb nutrients from food. Damaged villi lead to impaired nutrient absorption and a variety of gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms.

There is no cure for celiac disease, but it can be effectively managed through a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. Even tiny amounts of gluten can trigger intestinal damage. So for those with celiac disease, it’s essential to avoid any products containing wheat, barley, rye or oats. Oats are often contaminated with wheat during growing and processing. Some individuals with celiac disease can tolerate pure, uncontaminated oats, but others cannot.

What Foods Contain Gluten?

Many common grains and starches contain gluten:

  • Wheat (including farro, durum, semolina, spelt, kamut)
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Oats*
  • Triticale

*Oats are inherently gluten-free but are often cross-contaminated with wheat

In addition to grains, gluten can be found in many processed foods and condiments, including:

  • Bread, pasta, baked goods
  • Cereal, crackers
  • Malt vinegar
  • Soy sauce
  • Seasonings, spices
  • Soup bases, broths

It’s important to check ingredient labels carefully to look for sources of gluten. Wheat may also be hiding in foods under names like semolina, durum, einkorn, cake flour, wheat starch, couscous and more.

What is Pace Salsa?

Pace is a popular brand of salsa in the United States. They offer a variety of salsas in mild, medium and hot heat levels. Some of their salsas include:

  • Pace Picante Sauce
  • Pace Chunky Salsa
  • Pace Restaurant Style Salsa
  • Pace Fruit Salsa
  • Pace Avocado Salsa

In addition to salsas, Pace makes cheese dips, salad dressings, barbecue sauces and more. The brand is owned by Campbell Soup Company. Pace salsas are sold in grocery stores across the United States.

Ingredients in Pace Salsa

A look at the ingredients list of classic Pace Picante Sauce reveals:

  • Tomato puree
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Green chilies
  • Cilantro
  • Spices and seasonings
  • Garlic
  • Vinegar

Pace salsas are made with a simple ingredient list of tomatoes, vegetables, spices and seasonings. They do not contain any gluten-containing grains.

Are Pace Salsas Certified Gluten Free?

Pace salsas are not certified gluten free and the packaging does not state “gluten free.” This is likely because the products are produced in facilities that also process wheat-containing foods, presenting a risk of cross-contamination.

According to Pace’s website, some of their products may contain trace amounts of gluten due to manufacturing processes. They advise those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to contact them for the most updated gluten-free status information.

What About Cross-Contamination?

Even when a salsa recipe itself is gluten-free, cross-contamination during manufacturing can introduce small amounts of gluten. Potential sources of cross-contamination include:

  • Shared equipment – Machines used to process wheat-based foods may transmit traces of gluten to the gluten-free product.
  • Shared facility – Gluten particles can be spread through the air or on surfaces.
  • Shared ingredients – Some minor ingredients like spices may become cross-contaminated.

Companies that produce gluten-free products use good manufacturing practices to control cross-contamination risks. This includes thorough cleaning procedures, dedicated gluten-free production lines, and sometimes separate facilities.

However, it’s impossible to fully eliminate the chance of cross-contamination. There are no regulations for the amount of gluten allowed in foods labeled “gluten free” in the United States. Products only have to contain less than 20 parts per million gluten to use this label.

Has Anyone Reported Reactions to Pace Salsa?

There are very few online reports of individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity reacting to Pace salsa products.

On’s forum, one member asked about reactions to Pace salsa. Another member responded that Pace gave them symptoms after diagnosis with celiac disease, but they have been able to consume it without issues for 10 years since their villi healed. notes Pace salsa as a “likely safe” gluten-free product based on lack of reaction reports. However, they advise contacting the manufacturer if you have celiac or are highly sensitive.

On the GlutenFreeWatchdog Facebook group, a few members reported eating Pace salsa without any symptoms of a gluten reaction. However, their facility status could have changed since those posts were made.

Overall, there seem to be few reports of gluten reactions to Pace salsa amongst the celiac community. But all facilities and products should be checked periodically for updated gluten-free status.

Should You Consume Pace Salsa on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Whether or not to consume Pace salsa on a gluten-free diet depends on your comfort level with cross-contamination risks and sensitivity level:

  • Person with celiac disease: Consult your doctor and Pace. Small amounts of gluten could damage your intestines and cause symptoms. Assess your sensitivity and make an informed decision on if you want to take the risk.
  • Person with gluten sensitivity: You may be able to tolerate trace gluten. Try a small serving and monitor symptoms. Stop consuming it if you react.
  • Person avoiding gluten for other reasons: You do not need to follow as strict a diet as those with celiac disease. Make your own determination on if you want to eat Pace salsa.

Keep in mind that facility status and formulations can change at any time. If you do choose to consume Pace salsa, make sure to check back regularly that it has not been made in an unsafe gluten facility. Contact the company directly for the most updated information.

Other Potentially Gluten-Free Salsa Options

If you decide Pace salsa is not worth the risk for your needs, there are other potentially gluten-free salsas including:

Brand Salsa Products
Frontera Frontera gourmet salsas and cooking sauces
Desert Pepper Trading Company Salsas, hot sauces, marinades
Mrs. Renfro’s Salsas and queso
Tostitos Tostitos salsas
Wholly Guacamole Salsas and dips
Chi-Chi’s Jarred salsas
Casa Mamita Salsa verde, tomatillo salsa

Be sure to check labels and call manufacturers to verify gluten-free status before consuming. Homemade salsa prepared with gluten-free ingredients is also a great option.

Tips for Safely Consuming Salsa

If you choose to eat store-bought salsa, here are some tips to help reduce exposure to cross-contamination:

  • Call company to verify gluten-free production practices.
  • Check label each time for ingredient or “made in” changes.
  • Carefully inspect product for signs package was compromised.
  • Consume salsa in moderation.
  • Avoid eating directly from shared containers like jars.
  • Consider potential for cross-contact from utensils and surfaces.

The Bottom Line

Pace salsa contains a gluten-free ingredient list. However, the brand does not claim to be gluten-free or take special steps to avoid cross-contamination. The salsas are produced in shared facilities and equipment with wheat-containing foods.

A few people with celiac disease have reported safely consuming Pace, but negative reactions are definitely possible with trace gluten. Those with celiac or who are highly sensitive should use caution and check with the manufacturer.

In the end, it comes down to your personal risk comfort level. Be sure to evaluate any potential salsa choice carefully and take steps to prevent cross-contact for maximum safety.

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