A trip to Argentina includes learning the gluten-free labeling system. Gluten-free packaged foods bear the label sin T.A.C.C.
I was traveling with my husband recently in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and took special note of the gluten-free options there. We were traveling without my daughter who has celiac disease, so we did not need to do a thorough check of gluten-free options in the city, but several gluten-free options and labeling caught my eye.
In Argentina, gluten-free is referred to in a few different ways. Packaged foods will bear the label “sin T.A.C.C.,” which stands for “sin trigo, avena, centeno y cebada,” or “without wheat, oats, rye and barley.” The logo, a bold crossed-out wheat image with the words “sin T.A.C.C.,” is prominent on a lot of packaged foods from dulce de leche (delectable caramel sauce) to sugar packets.
The “sin T.A.C.C.” label is specific to Argentina and is not necessarily used in other South American countries. The Celiac Association of Argentina, has more information on labeling regulations on its website, along with some helpful links. The website is written in Spanish, but you can click on an option in your browser to translate the page to English.
Restaurants in Argentina have a few different ways to indicate gluten-free options on menus. While some menus did have gluten-free options noted, many did not. Disappointingly, the menus that had gluten-free items had a very small selection of options.
Wording on menus included:
— “Sin T.A.C.C.,” with the crossed-out wheat symbol, as mentioned above.
— “Sin trigo,” which means “without wheat.”
— “Libre de gluten,” which means “free of gluten.” I did not see any menus that said “sin gluten” (or “without gluten”) while I was in Argentina, but in neighboring Chile they do use “sin gluten” to denote food that’s gluten-free.
— My favorite wording were menus that said they had food “para celiacos” or “for celiacs.” In the United States, at least, it always makes me happy when someone specifically mentions that something is safe for celiacs. It gives me comfort to know that people understand that celiac is a disease and not just a lifestyle choice.
Argentina is the land of steaks and Malbec wine, so much of the cuisine is naturally gluten-free. They don’t use a lot of sauces and spices, although chimichurri sauce is a popular accompaniment to steak and is usually served on the side. Of course, even if a food is naturally gluten-free, one needs to check to see that it is prepared safely without any hidden gluten or cross-contamination.
Surprisingly, Italian food is a runner-up in terms of most popular food in Buenos Aires. In the late 19th century, Argentina had a huge wave of immigration, almost half of it Italian. I know that I shouldn’t quote Wikipedia as a source, but up to 62.5 percent of the total population of Argentina has some degree of Italian descent. Pizza and pasta restaurants seem to be on every corner in Buenos Aires.
We saw a book in an airport bookstore titled, Yo, celíaco: La vida sin gluten. When the author talks about the challenge of being gluten-free in Buenos Aires, he mentions that almost 40,000 pizzas are consumed per day (14 million a year) and that Sunday pasta is a national custom. I had not expected pizza and pasta to be so popular in Buenos Aires!
The city of Buenos Aires is captivating. With its grand boulevards, narrow neighborhood streets, street art and cafes, it truly is the Paris of South America. If you have the opportunity to visit Buenos Aires, bon viaje! Good travels!Originally posted August 2018