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8 Gluten Free Myths and Misconceptions

With so many myths and misconceptions surrounding gluten it is hard for Coeliacs to know what is exactly fact and fiction. Is it true that cheese can be coated in wheat or mushrooms contain rye. I take a closer look at some of the myths I see most often.

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Added 18th January 2019

Updated 10th November 2020

8 Gluten Free Myths and Misconceptions
There are so many misconceptions surrounding gluten it isn't always easy to know what it true and what is a load of garbage so I thought I would look at some of the misconceptions I hear time and time again and see people forever get confused about.

Some of the myths have usually come from some truth, some are ones that are just misunderstood (I know, some are so confusing to understand!) and others hold no truth, so it is good to know what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to the things a Coeliac is putting in their mouth.

Coeliacs can't have vinegar - FALSE
It is understandable that you may thing barley malt vinegar isn't safe but it is! Due to the fermentation process vinegar goes through, the end result means there is only a small amount of gluten present which falls within the 20 parts per million guidelines for Coeliac safe levels. All vinegar types are therefore classified as being gluten free.

However, some Coeliacs may find they do react to barley malt vinegar either because of a separate barley allergy or because of being extremely sensitive. By Food Standards guidelines it is gluten free, but it is one to try yourself.

See more on Coeliac UK's website about vinegar, oats and barley malt extract

Oats contain gluten - FALSE
Some people seem to get confused thinking oats are restricted for Coeliacs because they are gluten containing grains however that's not the case.

Coeliacs can only have pure oats or gluten free oats due to the way they are grown. Normal oats are grown with barley and wheat so are a high cross contamination risk. Pure or gluten free oats are grown on their own with no contamination risk.

Oats do contain a protein called Avenin which has a similar make up to gluten, this is the reason some Coeliacs can't tolerate any oats, studies have shown that most Coeliacs can tolerate Avenin but a small percentage can't.

Grated cheese is coated in wheat - FALSE
This is false but it does have basis on truth. Grated cheese have anti caking agents to stop it all sticking together in the bag. Wheat was once used as a coating but the CODEX standards have changed and these days only "rice, corn and potato flours and starches" are permitted to be used as coatings on cut, sliced and shredded products. You can find more about the the CODEX standards in these PDF files here and here

Coeliacs can't eat mushrooms or strawberries - FALSE
Mushrooms are fine for Coeliacs, they do not contain gluten, they are a fungus not a grain. Grain spawn is used to grow mushrooms on though and the most common grain used is rye. There hasn't been any official tests on how much gluten is absorbed by the fungus but it is believed to be well below the 20ppm threshold. Coeliac UK and many of Coeliac organisations round they world have all deemed them safe for Coeliacs to eat, even Australia who have a 3ppm safe level for Coeliacs. Some Coeliacs do find they can't eat mushrooms though, like those who can't have barley malt vinegar because they are extremely sensitive.

Similar applies to strawberries, some farms grow strawberries on wheat straw, however the berry themselves don't contain gluten. Unlike mushrooms though they don't absorb anything from the strawberries so the only contamination would be the outside so just make sure you give them a wash before eating. These days though many places grow strawberries high up rather than on the ground so straw isn't used as much.

Coeliacs can't eat maltodextrin, glucose syrup or dextrose - FALSE
Although all three can be derived from wheat they are all safe for Coeliacs to consume. When these items are derived from wheat the manufacturers legally have to declare wheat as it is a separate allergen, for Coeliacs though the level is safe so unless you have a separate wheat allergy you can eat these ingredients. More info on these is over on Coeliac UK.

Mustard isn't gluten free - HALF TRUE
The English Mustard condiment, you know that ready made up almost paste type stuff, now that version is rarely gluten free as is uses wheat in it, I can't say I have ever seen a gluten free version now I think about it.

HOWEVER, mustard seeds and mustard flour are perfectly fine. These are highlighted in bold on products because they are separate allergens not because they contain gluten! Mustard flour may be a bit deceiving to some but it is just mustard seed ground up to make a flour, no gluten involved.

Coeliacs can't have soya - FALSE (but I do get why it's confusing)
Soya itself if a bean which is gluten free. SOY SAUCE however isn't. I get the confusion I do. Soy sauce is the Chinese sauce stuff in a bottle, this uses wheat in it, so you need Tamari sauce the Japanese equivalent but which is gluten free. If a product contains soy sauce which has wheat in it, wheat will be on the ingredients.

Soya as an ingredient on its own is different, this is an allergen in its own right so will be highlighted on ingredients but does not contain gluten. So if you see anything like soya letchin or soya milk, these types of things are perfectly fine.

Stamp and envelope gum contains gluten - FALSE
It was once rumoured the gum on stamps and envelopes contained gluten but Coeliac UK confirmed with the Post Office and different envelope manufacturers that the gum did not contain gluten at all. The adhesive on stamps and envelopes are made from corn starch most commonly.

These are just 8 myths that I hear so much, we also have a bit more information on some other misconceptions in this blog post - Three Things About Gluten Free Diets Coeliacs Don't Always Understand

Have you got any other myths and legends surrounding gluten and the various misconceptions that pop up over time? Let us know.

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