To eat or not to eat wheat starch-containing gluten-free DiGiorno pizza

To eat or not to eat wheat starch-containing gluten-free DiGiorno pizza

Please also see the post Wheat Starch in Gluten-Free Foods in 2023: An Update from Gluten Free Watchdog available at

The controversy over the use of wheat starch in gluten-free foods is back on the front burner due to the new DiGiorno gluten-free pizzas. The pizzas are made using wheat starch that has been processed to remove gluten.

Before we go any further, please remember that under the FDA’s 2013 gluten-free labeling rule, wheat starch is an allowed ingredient in foods labeled gluten-free as long as its use does not result in the final food product containing 20 parts per million or more of gluten. Please avoid wheat starch containing foods NOT labeled gluten-free.

Bottom line

If you would like to eat a wheat starch-containing food labeled gluten-free food, it is prudent to make sure at least one of the following is true:

  • It is confirmed by the manufacturer that 1. Hydrolytic enzymes are not used in the production process of water washed wheat starch, and 2. Wheat starch is tested with a sandwich ELISA.


  • It is confirmed by the manufacturer that both the sandwich and competitive R5 ELISAs are used to assess the wheat starch for gluten.

To learn the why for the above recommendation, please read on…

Gluten Free Watchdog testing

GFWD tested four DiGiorno gluten-free pizzas—two pepperoni pizzas and two cheese pizzas. Extractions from both the whole pizza (crust and toppings) and the crust only were tested.

Summary of what we found

Sandwich R5 ELISA (quantifies intact gluten): All 16 extractions from samples of both the whole pizza and the crust only contained a level of gluten below the lower limit of quantification of 5 parts per million.

Competitive R5 ELISA (detects gluten protein fragments): All 16 extractions from samples of both the whole pizza and the crust only contained a level of gluten below the lower limit of quantification of 10 parts per million.

Are DiGiorno gluten-free pizzas appropriate for folks with celiac disease?

Maybe. The gluten content of wheat starch can vary and GFWD would feel much more comfortable providing an assessment on safety if we knew:

1. The assays used by DiGiorno and their supplier to test wheat starch for gluten.

2. The process used by their supplier in the production of wheat starch (e.g., are hydrolytic enzymes used).

Why the cautionary note? Because of what assay manufacturer R-Biopharm has to say about testing wheat starch for gluten…

From R-Biopharm

Under certain circumstances, R-Biopharm, the manufacturer of the sandwich and competitive R5 ELISAs recommends the use of the competitive R5 ELISA when assessing wheat starch for gluten.

GFWD question to R-Biopharm: Do you still recommend using the competitive R5 ELISA when assessing starch for gluten? If yes, does this include water washed wheat starch?

Response from R-Biopharm: Thank you for asking. The answer unfortunately is “it depends”… If hydrolytic enzymes were used in the production process of (water washed) starch the use of R7021 (competitive ELISA) is the better choice. If hydrolysis can be excluded R7001 works fine. 

Information from DiGiorno

DiGiorno states on their website that they use wheat starch that undergoes a rinsing process, “We extract the starch from the wheat and then rinse the starch to remove the gluten.” They do not state whether or not the process involves hydrolytic enzymes.

Important consideration

It is likely next to impossible for consumers to find out if a supplier uses hydrolytic enzymes during the production process of water washed wheat starch. A less frustrating approach may be to ask the manufacturer if they or their supplier test wheat starch using the competitive R5 ELISA. However, this question may be met with silence as well.

Gluten Free Watchdog reached out to DiGiorno, Schar, and Caputo to ask about the testing and extraction processes for the wheat starch used in their products.

DiGiorno: Has not yet responded.

Schar: Hydrolytic enzymes are NOT used in the production process of water washed wheat starch AND both a sandwich and competitive ELISA are used to assess wheat starch for gluten.

Caputo: Has not yet responded.

If a wheat starch-containing product is certified by GFCO

GFCO stated in email correspondence that they certify very few products with wheat starch, but that with an increase in interest they are updating their policies to clarify that wheat starch must be water washed only (without the use of hydrolytic enzymes), and that the starch must test below the lower limit of quantification (no more than 5 ppm of gluten) using a sandwich ELISA.


DiGiorno states on their website that their pizzas are not currently certified but they are in the process of obtaining certification. They do not name the certification organization.

What to do if you believe a wheat starch-containing food made you sick

Contact an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your state/region and file a report. See

For more information on wheat starch, see

Share this post

Comments (12)

  • Mark Hulme Reply

    Based on all the cagey failures to respond and the lack of certification for the product I personally would 1) avoid; 2) avoid and; 3) avoid. I fail to understand the insistence of manufacturers in including questionnable ingredients in so-called ‘gluten free’ products. It’s almost a form of masochism. Do they believe they are somehow ‘gaming the system’ and winning in their failure to make safe products? Customers will vote with their feet if made ill, and complaints likely to flood in. Gluten Free world is a wild-west of crazy.

    July 26, 2021 at 7:28 pm
  • Rochelle Reply

    I just don’t see the need to risk ingesting “washed” wheat starch. There always a risk of error in the food processing chain. It seems there are plenty of alternative to wheat starch so why are food manufacturers spending time on this? I’d rather they spent time on making products healthier with gf whole grains and vitamin and mineral enrichment like mainstream grain products. And get rid of the rice flour …

    August 17, 2021 at 12:43 am
  • Jennifer Reply

    I just ate some of there pizza and it definitely contains gluten. I’m having the symptoms I get when I ingest gluten. Please do not eat this if you are allergic to gluten. I will never touch it again !!

    December 9, 2022 at 2:57 pm
  • Ohio Mom Reply

    My wife purchased one of these pizzas (four cheese) in December 2022 from a Target in Columbus, OH. It is plainly labelled as GLUTEN-FREE. On the front of the box in HUGE BLOCK LETTERS it says as much. I’m in the middle of finals at OSU, so my 16 year old daughter bakes it for me, brings me out two pieces, while her twin sister is sitting next to me on the couch. I’m working on a final project, finished a piece, started on the second piece, and suddenly, my jaw hurt. My face hurts. I thought my TMJ was acting up again, but the weather was okay, I put my hand up over where it hurt…and my jawline was GONE. My daughter sitting next to me got my wife, who decided it was time to get me to the ER.

    Three hours later….it was determined to be anaphylaxis FROM THE WHEAT IN THE PIZZA. The epinephrine injection got rid of it within minutes…

    I’ve been gluten free since 2019 because of gastroenterology diagnosed Celiac’s and suspected a wheat allergy. This confirmed it. DO NOT EAT THIS PIZZA IT IS NOT GLUTEN OR WHEAT FREE.

    December 18, 2022 at 8:33 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      I am so sorry to hear this happened to you. Thank goodness you are okay. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

      December 20, 2022 at 12:57 pm
  • K Reply

    Not worth it! I’ve been gluten free since 2013 and this was a horrible mistake. Don’t even try!

    April 12, 2023 at 1:28 am
  • Chrissy Jensen Reply

    I guess I just don’t understand why we *need* wheat starch if it’s had the glutenin and gliadin removed… therefore, what would be the benefit to using the starch instead of tapioca, potato, corn, or any other main GF starches? It makes very little sense to me from a professional (gluten free) pastry chef position. I can’t even see how the cost would be lower of such a highly processed product. Granted, I have not used the product – I have lots of guests with wheat allergies in addition to gluten issues and would not put them at risk.
    It just seems like a strange ingredient to insist on using in a gluten free product line.

    June 4, 2023 at 6:04 pm
  • Jill Beyer Reply

    Thank you so much for investigating this. I have been diagnosed celiac disease and have seen all of this unfold literally before my eyes. In all those years, I have only once eaten a product that mistakenly had wheat that shouldn’t have been in there. At least the president of Cheerios came on national TV and apologized for the error in production, he had a moral compass. I did react to the DiGiorno 4 cheese Gluten Free Pizza…typical symptoms just not severe. Which is why I looked at the label and nearly fell over! Why would I risk my life for a pizza slice?! I was a director of Arrowhead Celiac/Gluten Intolerance Group. We need to reform and educate ourselves. Thanks for what you do.

    June 19, 2023 at 2:32 pm
  • Melanie Burke Reply

    I have tried it twice with disaster. I do not have the celiac reaction to gluten as Celiacs do. I am one point from Celiac but have a rheumatoid reaction. Please do not buy this. It was delicious and that is the first thing that should have raised a flag.

    July 25, 2023 at 5:44 pm
  • Jocelyn Reply

    I’m curious if you have reached out to King Arthur about their gluten free bread flour. I noticed that it doesn’t carry the same certification as their other gf products. Do they use the wash method or do they use hydrolytic enzymes?

    November 4, 2023 at 11:10 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *