Gluten-Free Foods Still Contain Barley Malt

Gluten-Free Foods Still Contain Barley Malt

Despite having a gluten-free labeling rule in place, there are manufacturers who still believe that if they test their final food product for gluten using the sandwich R5 ELISA and it tests below 20 parts per million of gluten then they can label the product gluten-free, regardless of ingredients. As a result manufacturers are labeling food gluten-free even though these products may contain such ingredients as malt, malt extract, malt syrup, extracts of rye, extracts of barley, soy sauce (with a sub-ingredient list that includes wheat), etc.

These manufacturers are missing two major facts…

First, there is more than one criterion for labeling a food gluten-free. A gluten-free food may NOT contain ingredients that have NOT been processed to remove gluten. It doesn’t matter how much gluten the final food product contains, even if it is less than 20 parts per million. A manufacturer cannot include a little bit of wheat flour or a little bit of barley malt and label a food gluten-free, regardless of test results.

Second, the sandwich R5 ELISA is not able to accurately detect gluten peptide fragments. Gluten peptide fragments result when gluten protein is hydrolyzed (in other words broken apart).  A competitive R5 ELISA should be used to detect gluten protein fragments.

Note: If you are interested in learning more about the differences between the sandwich and competitive R5 ELISAs please click here.

Products containing barley malt, barley malt extract, or barley malt syrup

If you come across a product labeled gluten-free yet containing malt, malt extract, or malt syrup please know that despite what the manufacturer may tell you about the product testing gluten-free, these ingredients are NOT allowed in gluten-free foods. This is the single biggest ingredient issue—malt in gluten-free foods–that we deal with at Gluten Free Watchdog. And it is great to report that to date all of these issues have been dealt with successfully (although some cases have taken longer to resolve than others!).

Note: If you are interested in what the FDA has to say about malt ingredients, please click here.

Products containing other hydrolyzed gluten ingredients

Foods labeled gluten-free yet containing extracts of roasted barley, extracts of roasted rye, or wheat that has undergone hydrolysis during processing have proven far more difficult to address. There are several reasons for this difficulty:

1.    There is no Code of Federal Regulation definition for “extracts of roasted barley” or “extracts of roasted rye” as there is for malt.

a.    For example, at Gluten Free Watchdog we tested a product containing as ingredients extracts of roasted barley and extracts of roasted rye and it tested below 5 parts per million using the sandwich R5 ELISA but tested above 20 parts per million of gluten using the competitive R5 ELISA. In other words, test results indicate that this product contains gluten peptide fragments. The first time Gluten Free Watchdog sent test results to FDA, the agency responded that, “we are not certain what exactly the extracts of roasted barley and roasted rye contain so we cannot make a decision on labeling as yet.” After the second round of testing approximately one year later, results were again sent to FDA. The agency responded, “We will review your information and follow up as warranted.” The product is still being sold as gluten-free. The ingredients have not changed. This response is vastly different than the response received from FDA when a product labeled gluten-free and containing barley malt was reported. Product was removed from store shelves in a matter of days. Please note that Gluten Free Watchdog always contacts the manufacturer FIRST when dealing with ingredients that should not be included in a labeled gluten-free product. FDA is contacted only when the manufacturer is nonresponsive.

2.    The FDA has not yet released the proposed rule regarding gluten-free labeling of hydrolyzed and fermented foods. This may be preventing the Agency from acting on foods containing certain hydrolyzed ingredients.

Note: To read the update received from FDA on this proposed rule please click here.

3.    While we wait for the proposed rule to be released the FDA provides some nondescript guidance to manufacturers. The FDA states the following in the preamble to the gluten-free labeling rule: A “gluten-free” claim will be permitted on fermented and hydrolyzed foods or foods containing fermented or hydrolyzed ingredients that meet all of the requirements for bearing a “gluten-free” claim even though the gluten content of the food cannot be reliably measured.”  Consumers along with manufacturers will have to wait for the proposed rule to find out exactly what FDA means by this statement. In the meantime, manufacturers are interpreting this statement in a variety of ways based on the conversations I have had with some of them.

My recommendations

At this time and in my professional opinion, individuals with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders should NOT eat products containing hydrolyzed gluten ingredients. I certainly would not. But this is a personal choice. At the very least, I recommend the following:

1.    Do NOT eat any foods containing malt, malt extract, or malt syrup even if they are labeled gluten-free. These products should be reported first to corporate and then to FDA if necessary. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, please contact Gluten Free Watchdog.

2.    If you come across a product containing hydrolyzed or fermented wheat, barley, or rye, contact the manufacturer. If you are told that the gluten-free claim is based on testing using a sandwich ELISA, this product should be avoided. It may contain undetected gluten peptides. If the manufacturer is not transparent and does not provide testing information, this product should be avoided.

a.    If the manufacturer is basing their gluten-free claims on testing using both a sandwich and competitive R5 ELISA I am a bit more comfortable with the product because the testing is more comprehensive. But please keep in mind that the competitive R5 ELISA is not a perfect assay. Personally, I would still avoid this product. You may or may not feel the same.

i.     Note: The above does not hold true for gluten-removed beer as the enzyme treatment involved in the processing of these beverages renders the competitive R5 ELISA useless at detecting the amino acid sequence this assay is designed to “find.”

Bottom Line

Testing foods for gluten contamination is an exceedingly complicated process and there is no such thing as too much testing. The more testing we do through Gluten Free Watchdog the more often I am left scratching my head. There are very smart people working on the subtle nuances of testing food for gluten. The Working Group on Prolamin Analysis and Toxicity does some of the best work. To read the proceedings of their last meeting click here.

If you come across a product you feel may be misbranded based on ingredients, please let us know.

© February 2, 2015 by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD for Gluten Free Watchdog, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reprinted without the express written permission of Tricia Thompson.

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Comments (54)

  • Sarah felong
    Reply

    Recently bought guinness burts thick cut potato chips at world market in San Diego. Package is marked gluten free but it contains barley malt extract powder. The package emphatically claims product to be gluten free. It is made in uk.

    August 10, 2015 at 10:54 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Sarah, I contacted an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator about this product in May. This information will be forwarded to FDA tomorrow. Thank you so much for posting.

      August 11, 2015 at 8:36 pm
  • jennifer Reply

    I had quorn meat a few times and have had a reaction like this morning. they have Gluten Free Roasted Barley Malt Extract in the quorn meat…..im wondering if this is not as gluten free as they say?

    June 7, 2016 at 9:14 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Sorry to hear this Jennifer. Are you located in Europe by chance? I’m asking because this product should no longer be labeled gluten-free in the US.

      June 7, 2016 at 12:42 pm
  • Dawn Reply

    I had purchased a product, Dandy Blend, manufactured by Goosefoot Acres, Inc. in OH. It is produced in Poland for this company. It has a large ‘Gluten-Free’ label but the ingredients are: extracts of roasted barley, rye, chicory root, dandelion root and sugar beet. I have contacted the company who stressed that this product has been tested and is < 5 ppm. They did not tell me how it was tested. This is a beverage product that is very similar to Postum. I remember that Postem had always made me sick. I have Celiac Disease. I am looking for any feedback from anyone who is familiar with this product and/or the ingredients. My gut feeling (pardon the pun) is to leave it alone.

    July 22, 2016 at 6:04 pm
  • Dafydd Roberts Reply

    Hi greatly informative. Thanks. We bought some Burts Crisos ‘Reggae Reggae’ crisps as labelled Gluten Free, but they contain Barley. pretty confusing and a shame they either don’t explain on the packing or omit barley altogether. We are in uk.

    July 23, 2016 at 3:15 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      In the UK barley malt extract is an allowed ingredient in foods labeled gluten-free. You may want to contact Coeliac UK for more information.

      July 24, 2016 at 11:05 pm
  • Sarah D Reply

    Yesterday I had the seasonal Cranberry-Raspberry flavor of frozen yogurt at Yogurtland. The label said it was gluten free, however I started to get symptoms of having eaten gluten, so later I check the ingredients online and one of them was malted barley. That’s gotta be gluten, right?! I was very upset because I usually go to Yogurtland with no problem but this seasonal flavor messed me up.

    November 15, 2016 at 8:31 pm
  • Eugenia Reply

    I have been getting my typical gluten reactions whenever I drink Dandy Blend (joint pain, stomach ache, balance issues …to name a few). The label says it is gluten-free and the manufactures says they passed the ELISA test. So I told myself it’s probably not from this product. However my symptoms subside after a few days of completely avoiding Dandy Blend and returns within a few hours of consuming it. I am convinced it contains enough ppm of gluten to not qualify as gluten-free but the manufacturer is getting away with their marketing based on a technicality that’s FDA supported. Not fair! I’m throwing mine out.

    November 30, 2016 at 9:31 pm
  • Linda Reply

    I got ill after a beef roast from Aldi it was butcher van gourmet it did not declare gluten but had barley malt flour so I’m ill from the carelessness

    January 9, 2017 at 6:28 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Linda, Sorry to hear this. Is this product labeled gluten-free? If so can you please send photos that include the product name and ingredients list. Thank you.

      January 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm
  • Lindsay Reply

    I started using an herbal coffee mix recently called Dandy Blend. The ingredients included extracts of barley and rye, but the product clearly says Gluten Free on the front. If you go to their website and look a FAQs, the first answer is about how the product is gluten free despite these two ingredients. See this here:

    http://www.dandyblend.com/FAQ.asp

    I have been feeling kind of awful lately and wondering if I’m reacting to this despite it being called “gluten free”. Is this product safe for celiacs, or not?

    Thanks!

    April 26, 2017 at 6:49 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      If the formulation for Dandy Blend remains the same as when we last tested it, it is not a product recommended by Gluten Free Watchdog.

      April 26, 2017 at 7:12 pm
  • Angela Reply

    Found a bottle of old speckled hen beer labeled gluten free in tesco so after looking at the label I bought it. When I got it home I scrutinized the label further to find it says contains malted barley. It’s very small to see. So I won’t risk it. Dont want to be ill. Shame, it might have been nice.

    April 29, 2017 at 6:55 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Angela, are you in the UK? In the US, gluten-removed beers containing barley malt are not allowed to be labeled gluten-free.

      April 30, 2017 at 6:52 pm
  • Keith Stribling Reply

    I was recently given a box of Lindt Lindor assorted 150 gram chocolates which have no ‘contains gluten’ warning, apparently in breach of Australian food labelling laws since the listed ingredients include barley malt extract.

    May 15, 2017 at 9:25 am
  • Denis Reply

    General Mills Cheerios are now label gluten free, and there ingredient are gluten free oats, and gluten free oat brand, and I heard about the re-called that happen in the pass, it should be ok now? The other question I have Mars Bars his not label gluten free, and it says it got Orge Malt, and they don’t have may contain wheat, or contain wheat at the bottom of the ingredient list, Mars Bars Caramel does not have the Orge Malt, at all, but it does not say may contain wheat, and they are not label gluten free.

    May 25, 2017 at 8:05 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Denis, Gluten Free Watchdog does not recommend gluten-free Cheerios at this time due to their testing methodology. I do not know what “orge malt” is? Can you please provide some more information. Are you in Canada?

      May 26, 2017 at 4:40 pm
  • Laura Reply

    I have just bought and drank ‘gluten free’ Peroni beer… it is clearly marked as gluten free but it contains barley malt.

    August 10, 2017 at 8:07 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Laura, did you purchase this beer in the United States?

      August 14, 2017 at 2:30 pm
      • Laura Reply

        No in the uk, East Sussex

        August 14, 2017 at 7:42 pm
        • Tricia Thompson Reply

          In the UK, some beer made using barley malt may be labeled gluten-free. This is one of the confusing differences between gluten-free labeling in the UK and the US. If you are concerned about this particular brand of beer, my suggestion is to contact Coeliac UK.

          August 14, 2017 at 7:45 pm
          • Laura

            Thank you, Tricia, I will!

            August 15, 2017 at 1:38 am
        • Evdokia Reply

          Hello have you had any updates regarding this issue? I am curious too about this

          August 16, 2018 at 6:34 pm
          • Tricia Thompson

            Does anyone know what Coeliac UK has to say about this beer?

            August 21, 2018 at 6:42 pm
  • Avon Bashida Reply

    Hi, Lindts chocolate contains Barley Malt. It is not labelled as glutenfree, but on the ingredients list it is not put as an allergen? Milk and Soy are highlighted..

    (I am in the US)

    Best,
    Avon

    November 2, 2017 at 3:18 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      In the US under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, barley is NOT one of the allergens that must be called out in either the ingredients list or Contains statement.

      November 5, 2017 at 2:38 pm
  • Heather Reply

    Lindt chocolate!! In past years the holiday chocolates did not contain barley, but now they do! I think they changed the ingredients at some point. Just ate some of their chocolate without checking and now anxiously waiting for side effects. Just goes to show you have to read the labels every time, even for items that were ok before.

    December 14, 2017 at 8:51 pm
  • Hope Reply

    Rice Chex say gluten free and it contains malted barley. My daughter has been recently diagnosed with gluten allergy we are going to see the gastroenterologist. My daughter has gone gluten free and still not feeling well. Couldn’t understand why until i checked the label on RICE CHEX.

    March 21, 2018 at 6:27 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Hope, Rice Chex from General Mills labeled gluten-free and sold in the US contain molasses. Please check the box again to make sure the ingredient list includes malted barley. If it does, please take photos of the box, including the gluten-free claim and the ingredients list and send them to me at info@glutenfreewatchdog.org.

      March 24, 2018 at 1:46 pm
  • Phillipa Lion Reply

    I’m so confused…is malted barley different from barley malt? The “malted” in malted barley seems to be a fermentation process which actually has nothing to do with malt. So is barley malt an actual sugar?

    March 23, 2018 at 10:39 pm
  • Phillipa Lion Reply

    Thank you, Tricia

    March 24, 2018 at 7:03 pm
  • Misse Reply

    How about malt flavoring? is this a chemical flavoring or an actual malt product. (As seen on the label of the original rice krispies treats?) I am hesitant to try it.

    March 24, 2018 at 7:15 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Malt flavoring is a barley derived ingredient and should be avoided by folks with celiac disease.

      March 24, 2018 at 7:18 pm
  • Ryan Reply

    I drank two bottles of peroni gluten free beer, after drinking them my stomach started to contract (like muscle twitching none stop) then 24 hours later I was on the toilet with stomach cramps and diarrhoea. I went back to the bottles to find that in the small print they contained barley. Now i know its my own fault for not reading the small print but i feel its aweful that they can have gluten free on the bottle with a sign which i recognize from new zealnd and australia that is only allowed on products that are 100 percent gluten free. Im in england and have been at my sisters wedding and ruined one of my days from drinking the peroni. I live in New Zealand and never have this problem. I feel let down by my countries terrible rules and regulations with products containing gluten. My advice to any ceoliac or new to diagnosis would be to stay away from anything in a packet, stick to natural foods and bake your own goodies and most of all just have a glass of wine, NOT (gluten free beer)

    May 31, 2018 at 9:33 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Sorry to hear this happened to you, Ryan. In the UK and EU certain beers that contains malted barley are allowed to be labeled gluten-free. In the US, these beers are labeled “processed to remove gluten.”

      June 4, 2018 at 1:39 pm
  • Peter Edwards Reply

    There needs more to done to address the issue of Gluten Containing Products, it is all very well and good printing a label and stating that it contains a food allergen. The main problem it some of the words are either that small and difficult to read or do not stand out clearly enough.

    It would be easy enough to just change the color/colour of the allergen on the label so that it stands out. If we take the likes of a product like soup, it often contains Wheat as a Thicking Agent, there are other thinking agents that would make them safer the like of Corn Flour.

    I personally though usually stay away from any product that is stocked beside one that would be an Allergy Risk. There are some stores that do not realise that the words Free From and what they mean. Any product that does not contain something like Sugar but contains an Allergen like Wheat. Even though that product is sealed it really does need to be stocked in a different area.

    September 4, 2018 at 2:49 pm
  • Sandra Beckman Reply

    Daura gluten-free beer from Damm (Spain) is delicious but contains barley malt

    September 21, 2018 at 5:48 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Daura can not be labeled gluten-free in the US. It must be labeled processed to remove gluten.

      September 21, 2018 at 5:52 pm
      • Sandra Beckman Reply

        Interesting. I live in Chile where it’s labelled gluten-free.

        September 21, 2018 at 6:15 pm
  • Kimberly Reply

    Hello,

    I just looked at the ingredients for Ben & Jerry’s Non Dairy Coffee Caramel Fudge Ice Cream and it has malt ingredients and allergens do not list Gluten as possible allergen.

    September 30, 2018 at 9:29 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Kimberly, Gluten, barley, and rye are not among the 8 allergens that must be named in a Contains statement if a Contains statement is included on a food label (if packaging does not include a Contains statement, any of the 8 allergens present in the product must be named in the ingredients list).

      October 2, 2018 at 4:50 pm
      • Kimberly Turner Reply

        Wow! I didn’t know that. Thanks so much for enlightening me!

        October 2, 2018 at 7:16 pm
  • Wesley Epperly Reply

    There are maltsters coming online that are exclusively making malt from gluten free grains like Rice, Millet, , Buckwheat, and quinoa. Grouse Malting in Colorado, and Eckert Malting and Brewing in California are the two examples that I know. So as GF malting expands, we should expect to see malt in Gluten Free food and beverage products more often. But I would not eat anything that says just malt, and not specifically millet malt, rice malt, etc.

    P.S. There are also a number of real gluten free beers and dedicated GF breweries out there. Several in Oregon, Washington state, Colorado, Utah, California, Ontario, and 1 in Pittsburg Pennsylvania.

    November 16, 2018 at 6:46 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Thanks for the information about the increase in various malts made using gluten-free grains. For those who are not aware, any grain can be malted. However, the single word “malt” in an ingredients list means “barley malt.” If another grain source is used it should be named (e.g., sorghum malt, etc).

      November 16, 2018 at 6:58 pm
  • Helen Keating Reply

    Knorr Rich Beef Stock Pot is clearly labelled as “Gluten Free” but left my husband in agony last night. This morning we checked the ingredients and is does in fact contain BARLEY malt extract (5%). How can this be allowed.

    November 30, 2018 at 8:20 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Helen, Are you in the UK or EU? If so, barley malt extract is allowed in foods labeled gluten-free. You may want to reach out to Coeliac UK about your experience. If you are in the US, barley malt extract is not allowed in foods labeled gluten-free.Do you have product photos by chance?

      December 6, 2018 at 7:06 pm

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