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Is This Gluten Free?

There are loads of misconceptions surrounding ingredients some of which are obvious and some which are less obvious.

Added 26th January 2015
Updated 10th November 2020

Is This Gluten Free?
I get asked a lot "Is this gluten free?" Sometimes they are silly things that you would like to assume everyone would know is gluten free. Believe it or not, yes bananas are gluten free. Howevever, there are a lot of ingredients people do get confused by and think should be avoided because we don't know its exact origin or its ingredients lead us to believe it shouldn't be gluten free. With the newest packaging laws stating the top 14 allergens need to be in bold, some ingredients we can safely see do or do not contain gluten, however there are still ingredients people will be forever weary of and are unsure if they should check. Here is some of the most common I see asked about, and an explanation of why we can or cannot have them.

Caramel Colouring - Gluten Free? Yes
This is commonly misconcepted as containing gluten because some believe it can be made from malt starch however companies tend to use corn as it has a better colour (and it should be printed on the ingredients if it was made from barley or wheat).

Citric Acid - Gluten Free? Yes
It used to be made from wheat a lot, but now it usually uses corn, beet sugar or molasses, however even if it is made from wheat, all gluten proteins are removed during manufacturing making it completely safe for Coeliacs.

Coffee - Gluten Free? Yes
Coffee itself is gluten free, however some Coeliacs react to it in as similar way as they do oats (see further down this blog), the protein in coffee beans is similar in make up to gluten so some cannot tolerate it.

Cornstarch - Gluten Free? Yes
For some reason I get asked a lot if this is gluten free. Well, yes it is, it's made from what the name implies, corn, corn is gluten free therefore the starch is too.

Dextrin/Dextrose - Gluten Free? Yes
It can be derived from wheat but it is so highly processed the gluten protein is removed, however is you are a super senstive Coeliac you might still get a reaction from it.

Glucose Syrup - Gluten Free? Yes
This one is usually a little difficult to figure out, some glucose is drived fom wheat although most comes from corn. Under the old laws ingredients could just state glucose syrup and not what it was derived from. Under new legislation glucose syrup should be listed as being derived from wheat if that is where it has come from. However, even if made from wheat, glucose syrup is safe for Coeliacs to eat as gluten is removed from the grain during processing, only extremely sensitive Coeliacs might get a reaction like with malt vinegar (see later in the blog).

Lentils - Gluten Free? Maybe
Lentils are gluten free however they tend to be packaged in factories who also package wheat products, therefore Coeliacs and particularly sensitive gluten intolerant people should use only gluten free certified lentils (make sure the packaging doesn't contain a "may contain" warning)

Lentil Flour - Gluten Free? Yes
Lentil flour is gluten free and is safe for Coeliacs, flour is processed in seperate areas or factories from the packaging of lentils so don't fall under the same ruling, but remember to check the packaging incase it does contain an allergy warning.

Maize - Gluten Free? Yes
Maize is a byproduct of corn and is gluten free, therefore it is safe for Coeliacs and gluten intolerants.

Maltodextrin - Gluten Free? Yes
Maltodextrin can be wheat based but is safe for Coeliacs. It can be made from a variety of starches but it is so highly processed even if made from wheat, gluten is completely removed from the grain during the manufacturing process, however some particularly sensitive Coeliacs may still get a reaction from it. If wheat is used, it should appear on the ingredients along the lines of "Maltodextrin(wheat)" rather than just "Maltodextrin" under the labelling laws.

Modified Starch - Gluten Free? Maybe
It really depends what its modified from. Under the new labelling laws if it is modified starch from wheat it should list is as it is an allergen, if it is modified from maize, corn or anything other than wheat it is gluten free.

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) - Gluten Free? Yes
Despite some speculation, it is gluten free, this flavouring is produced by corn, sugar beets or sugar cane so it naturally gluten free.

Mustard - Gluten Free? Maybe
The mustard seed is gluten free, however if you are talking normal processed mustard in a paste, this is when you need to check your ingredients as a lot contains wheat as a binding agent.

Malt Vinegar - Gluten Free? Yes
Yes, it is gluten free. Despite being made with barley, it is a by product and has been distilled so much that traces of gluten fall beneath 20ppm (parts per million) which is deemed safe for Coeliacs. However, some Coeliacs will find they are sensitive to malt vinegar, particularly very sensitive Coeliacs. Some Coeliacs cannot even tolerate other vinegars such as spirit vinegar or cider vinegar which are naturally gluten free either.

Oats - Gluten Free? Maybe
Standard oats are not gluten free. There are two reasons for this, standard oats can be grown in fields with wheat, therefore it becomes a cross contamination sort of issue. However, gluten free oats should be what they say, gluten free, but some Coeliacs cannot tolerate these either, this is because the chemicals in oats have very similar properties to gluten and the gut instinctively thinks it is gluten it is dealing with.

Rice Based Cereals - Gluten Free? Maybe
Always check the packaging! Rice on its own is gluten free, however a lot of rice based cereals add barley malt, so make sure you check, people often misconcept Kelloggs Rice Krispies as being gluten free as they are just puffed rice, but they contain barley, however some home brands are fine, so always remember to check!

Semolina - Gluten Free? No
Semolina is usually made from durum wheat which isn't gluten free. I've seen this mistake made commonly, cake made with semolina and people thinking it is gluten free...well no, sorry, it isn't!

Soya - Gluten Free? Yes
Soya is produced from the soybean which is gluten free. I'm not sure myself why I see "is soya gluten free" asked so often, I am unsure what makes people think it isn't. Soy Sauce is made from soya and ISN'T gluten free, only because it uses wheat in the ingredients, but soya generally is gluten free, I've only ever come across one bottle of soya milk which has also contained gluten.

Spelt - Gluten Free? No
Beacuse it is not wheat, this is often misconcepted as being gluten free, but is isn't! For someone with a wheat intolerance it is fine as a substitute however it is a different story for someone with a gluten intolerance or Coeliac, it is a gluten containing grain!

Spices - Gluten Free? Yes
Spices themselves are fine, its when they are used in seasonings such as piri piri rub, jerk seasoning etc, this is when barley or wheat may be added into the mix.

Whey - Gluten Free? Maybe
Whey is a protein found in dairy and is often used as a gluten subsititute in the form of a powder in things like protein bars. Whey is naturally gluten free however it can be processed with barley or wheat, if you are using whey protein powder which contains peptide bound glutamine this is when it may contain gluten, check the packaging to make sure it doesn't contain this.

Xanthan Gum - Gluten Free? Yes
Xanthan gum is a binding agent used in gluten free cooking as a gluten substitute, however some Coeliacs develop a sensitivity to it. In itself it is gluten free, but because of its make up some people just can't tolerate it.

If you want to see a list of what you should check and what is gluten free, check out this page.

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