Three Things About Gluten Free Diets Coeliacs Don't Always Understand

Three Things About Gluten Free Diets Coeliacs Don't Always Understand

There are a few bits about Coeliac that is often misconceived including whether gluten free wheat starch is safe and what vinegars are fine. In this blog we aim to give you a little more info on these misunderstandings.
There are a few things I see in the Coeliac world that so often causes confusion so I thought I would try and set a few bits straight regarding barley malt extract and gluten free wheat starch, these are the ones I see asked about so often over social media.

Gluten Free Wheat Starch
If I got a pound for every time I heard "how can it be gluten free if it has wheat in it" I would be living in the Bahamas by now. Gluten Free doesn't mean Wheat Free. Wheat Free does not mean Gluten Free. Do not assume otherwise. Gluten free wheat starch has the gluten removed and is strictly monitored to make sure it falls within the Codex guidelines which is below 20 parts per million in the UK, so yes it is gluten free even though it has wheat in its name.

Juvela, one of the most trusted prescription brands, have been making bread with gluten free wheat starch for many years, made specifically for Coeliacs. I think that is enough to prove that it is safe for Coeliacs, don't you?!

It would be worth noting that if you do have a wheat allergy as well as Coeliac, gluten free wheat starch is not for you! Wheat in the ingredients is still highlighted in bold for this reason, as it's an allergy on its own.

Barley Malt Extract
The amount of times I see something with barley malt and have to question whether it is safe for me is unbelievable, never mind to someone who is new to Coeliac. This one has to be the most confusing of them all. Is it gluten free? Sometimes. Can you always tell by the packet if it is safe? No.

The most common place for confusion on this one is in cereal, most supermarket home brands use barley malt extract in flavourings some of these home brands have been deemed gluten free through testing others haven't and unless you are a member of Coeliac UK with access to their food directory or contact manufacturers directly is isn't possible to know by looking at the packet if it is safe. I suggest using caution when it comes to barley malt extract, unless you have checked the cereal is safe, don't assume it will always be at "safe" levels for a Coeliac, the amount present is dependent on how much is used and how much it has been processed.

Vinegar
Another one that causes a lot of confusion which is related to barley is, barley malt vinegar. ALL vinegar is gluten free when it comes to UK guidelines. When going through the fermentation process the amount of barley that makes it through to the end product is very small and falls under the 20 parts per million guidelines which deems it safe for Coeliacs. Whether it is straight from the bottle or in a product if you see Barley Malt Vinegar in bold in the ingredients it is safe for Coeliacs however it is still displayed in bold because barley is an allergy in itself so has to be highlighted.

I'm sure there are other things that Coeliacs get confused by but those are the main three I see almost every day, I hope this helps clear a few bits up!

Your Comments

So yes if it claims to be Gluten Free no matter what it's made with it has to be GF

With vinegar, distilled malt vinegar is distilled just like whiskey but just like whiskey when made it's colourless, so manufacturers add the dreaded malt extract to make it brown & you can often see the colour settling on the bottom of the bottle.

Barley malt is the reason for my declining to buy or eat most products even though it's usually listed at the end of the ingredients list & may well be less than 20 ppm. It is in everything from mars bars to ready meals, sausages to soups and snacks as well as breakfast cereals. But manufacturers don't have to test for or declare the Gluten content

Alan McCandlish - 13th September 2017

Thank you for this info. I have a Wheat allergy and tend to go for GF products, which are usually fine, although every now and again I eat something and feel really ill, now I know WHY! That makes so much sense.

Debbie Chamberlin - 13th October 2017

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