Product Warning: Pots & Co. Flourless Chocolate Cake

Product Warning: Pots & Co. Flourless Chocolate Cake

This product is made in the UK and sold in the US. It is labeled gluten-free yet contains the ingredient “gluten-free barley malt extract (barley malt, water).”

Gluten Free Watchdog reached out to the manufacturer and was advised: “Our Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe uses a gluten free barley malt extract. It undergoes a special treatment to reduce the gluten content.  We have certification showing that it has a less than 5ppm and therefore can be labelled as Gluten Free.” 

While gluten-free foods in the UK can contain small amounts of barley malt extract, this ingredient is not allowed in foods labeled gluten-free and sold in the US. Imported foods must abide by our food labeling rules.

FDA states the following about barley malt ingredients:

“Can ingredients such as barley malt and barley malt extract be used in foods bearing a “gluten-free” claim? No. Malt syrup and malt extract are interchangeable terms for a viscous concentrate of a water extract of germinated barley, with or without a preservative. The terms barley malt or barley malt extract are used also. Malt extract and malt syrup are ingredients derived from a gluten-containing grain, barley, that has not been processed to remove gluten. Food and ingredient manufacturers should be aware that malt extract and other similar malt-derived ingredients are ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains that have not been processed to remove gluten and, therefore, cannot be used in foods that bear a “gluten-free” labeling claim.”

Coeliac UK states the following about barley malt extract:

“What is barley malt extract? Malt extract and malt flavourings are commonly made from barley, although they can be produced from other grains. Barley malt extract is a flavouring often added in small amounts to breakfast cereals and chocolates. Foods that contain barley malt extract in smaller amounts can be eaten by people with coeliac disease. However, any foods that contain barley malt extract will be labelled as containing barley and you will not be able to tell from the ingredients list how much has been used. Products containing barley malt extract that are labelled gluten free are suitable for people with coeliac disease.”

A product report has been filed with FDA.

Thank you to the consumers who contacted Gluten Free Watchdog about this product and provided photos.


Pots & Co. reached back out to GFWD with the following update: “While we have thorough documentation of testing on the raw ingredient & the final product, that showcase ppm levels well below the FDA’s gluten-free 20ppm benchmark, in an abundance of caution we will not be sending in any further product in the current packaging.”

While this move by Pots & Co. is appreciated of course, here is the issue that is problematic–the insistence by manufacturers that they are still in the right because test results are below 20 ppm.

The bottom line, and the issue manufacturers must understand, is that the gluten-free labeling rule in the US is ingredient based. In the US, certain ingredients are not allowed. Malt extract is one of them. Test results don’t matter. In addition, the assay that must be used to test malt extract for gluten is the competitive ELISA. It has many limitations, and the FDA does not consider results reliable.

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Comments (3)

  • Jan Lee Reply

    Thanks for the great research on this. I’ve always avoided items with barley malt/extract, but wasn’t aware of the fact that there were some versions that are now considered gluten-free. The point raised by Coeliac UK about non-gluten-free barley substances is notable. We have no way of knowing the amount added to foods.

    Appreciate the heads up!

    September 18, 2020 at 2:17 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Just to clarify, there are no versions of barley malt, barley malt extract, or barley malt syrup that are considered gluten-free in the US. The gluten levels in these ingredients can’t be accurately tested (please see posts on gluten-free labeling of fermented and hydrolyzed foods and ingredients). They all contain barley protein.

      September 18, 2020 at 2:23 pm
      • Jan Lee Reply

        Thanks Tricia! I should have clarified my response. Thanks for underscoring that point in your report.

        September 18, 2020 at 2:45 pm

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