KoJa Kitchen Restaurant Says Wheat-Based Soy Sauce is Gluten-Free: Is it?

KoJa Kitchen Restaurant Says Wheat-Based Soy Sauce is Gluten-Free: Is it?

April 23, 2018

Gluten Free Watchdog has been informed of yet another restaurant chain representing wheat-based soy sauce as gluten-free. The restaurant is KoJa Kitchen and they have an online schematic explaining how their soy sauce marinade is gluten-free. See http://www.kojakitchen.com/gluten-free. The trouble is, according to the Food and Drug Administration restaurants should NOT be representing their wheat-based soy sauce as gluten-free.

What follows are a few reminders about soy sauce. Please take the time to read this information carefully. If you have questions please contact me at info@glutenfreewatchdog.org.

All of the following points are true:

  1. Wheat-based soy sauce currently cannot be labeled gluten-free in the US.
    1. According to the FDA, “If a soy sauce is made from wheat and soybeans, “wheat” is a gluten-containing grain, and, therefore, cannot make the gluten-free claim (emphasis mine).
      1. Manufacturers, such as Chef Myron’s should not be labeling wheat-based soy sauce as gluten-free.
    2. FDA does not want restaurants using an agency-defined labeling term incorrectly.
      1. “If restaurants cannot ensure that the foods they prepare fully comply with FDA’s definition of gluten-free, restaurants should not refer to their foods as being gluten-free”
        1. Consequently, restaurants, such as KoJa Kitchen and HuHot should not be representing wheat-based soy sauce (and dishes made using wheat-based soy sauce) as gluten-free.

All of the following points are also true:

  1. Detecting gluten in fermented and hydrolyzed ingredients, such as soy sauce is a complicated process.
    1. As was written in the abstract of the recent research article, “Detection of Gluten During the Fermentation Process to Produce Soy Sauce” (J Food Prot. 2017;80:799-808), “Despite advances in our knowledge regarding CD and analytical methods to detect gluten, little is known about the effects of fermentation on gluten detection.”
  2. The recent study, “Using LC-MS to Examine Fermented Food Products Vinegar and Soy Sauce for the Presence of Gluten” (Food Chem. 2018;254:302-308) assessed gluten protein in malt vinegars and soy sauce using LC-MS.
    1. Gluten was detected in malt vinegar.
    2. Gluten was not detected in soy sauce.
  3. It may be the case that gluten protein is so extensively broken down during the fermentation process that no antigenic protein remains.
    1. BUT at this time we simply do not know if this is the case.
      1. The inability to detect gluten-derived proteins does not necessarily mean that soy sauce is free of gluten peptides that could elicit responses in individuals with CD or (nonceliac) gluten sensitivities. Additional research is required before concluding that the fermentation processes investigated eliminated all pathogenic elements.” (J Food Prot. 2017;80:799-808).

How can all of the above be true?

  1. Again, detecting gluten in fermented and hydrolyzed ingredients is complicated.
    1. The competitive R5 ELISA while developed for this purpose is not perfect.
  2. Researchers at FDA appear to be working on a competitive ELISA for the detection of gluten in fermented and hydrolyzed foods. See Panda R, Boyer M, Garber E. A multiplex competitive ELISA for the detection and characterization of gluten in fermented-hydrolyzed foods. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2017;409:6959-6973.
    1. In this article the researchers write, “Whether any antigenic protein survives the extensive hydrolysis process applied during manufacture of soy-based sauces is an important question that needs further research.”
  3. So again, wheat-based soy sauce currently cannot be labeled gluten-free in the US.
    1. Wheat-based soy sauce labeled gluten-free and sold in the US is misbranded.
  4. And again, restaurants should not be representing wheat-based soy sauce as gluten-free.
  5. FDA has stated that if a restaurant manager confirms that a menu item bearing a gluten-free claim is made with an ingredient prohibited by FDA regulations on gluten-free food labeling, it is important that these cases be reported to both the overseeing state agency and to FDA.
    1. Please report all restaurants representing wheat-based soy sauce as gluten-free to an FDA Consumer Safety Officer in your state.
      1. A listing is available at https://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/

At this time it is the strong recommendation of Gluten Free Watchdog that people with celiac disease avoid wheat-based soy sauce. We need to be reasonably confident that the assays used to detect gluten in fermented products are providing an accurate assessment before we tell folks with celiac disease that it is okay for them to eat wheat-based soy sauce. Manufacturers and restaurants should NOT be the final arbiters of this determination.

FDA’s complete statement on soy sauce is available at: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/make-no-mistake-about-it-wheat-based-soy-sauce-is-not-allowed-in-foods-labeled-gluten-free/

FDA’s complete statement on restaurants and gluten-free claims is available at: http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/restaurants-and-gluten-free-labeling-claims/

A printable letter to restaurant managers about soy sauce is available at: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/letter-to-restaurant-managers-do-not-use-wheat-based-soy-sauce-in-foods-represented-as-gluten-free/

 

 

 

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Comment (1)

  • Laura
    Reply

    Why not just use La Choy soy sauce? Gluten free!

    May 23, 2018 at 7:20 pm

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