Using Wheat Starch in Gluten-Free Foods

Using Wheat Starch in Gluten-Free Foods

In the US we are not used to seeing wheat starch in gluten-free food. This may be changing. Schar* has introduced their wheat starch-based croissants to the US market. This may lead other manufacturers of gluten-free foods to follow suit. As you make a personal decision whether to eat these products, you may want to keep the following points in mind:

1.     In the U.S. wheat starch is allowed in food labeled gluten-free.

2.     The Food and Drug Administration considers wheat starch an ingredient processed to remove gluten.

3.     Wheat starch contains varying amounts of gluten.

a.     A recent study found wheat starch to contain from less than 5 parts per million of gluten to over 10,000 parts per million of gluten (1).

4.     Individuals with gluten-related disorders should eat wheat starch and wheat-starch containing products only if they are labeled gluten-free.

5.     Manufacturers who choose to use wheat starch in their products should make sure the wheat starch is represented by the supplier as gluten-free and containing less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

6.     Wheat starch should be tested using both the sandwich and competitive R5 ELISAs.

a.     R-biopharm recommends using the competitive R5 ELISA to test starch (2).

b.     The competitive R5 ELISA is used when gluten has been partially hydrolyzed.

c.      Gluten in wheat starch may be partially broken down during processing (1).

7.     Current testing methods for gluten contamination are not perfect.

8.     The R5 ELISA detects the prolamin gliadin.

a.     Gluten is made up of prolamins and glutelins; in wheat the prolamin is gliadin and the glutelin is glutenin.

b.     The gliadin value is multiplied by 2 to determine the level of gluten.

c.      In general, the gliadin to glutenin ratio is considered to be 1:1.

d.     However in reality this ratio is variable.

e.     In one recent study the ratio varied from 0.31 to 3.19 in wheat starch samples (1).

f.      The ratio was less than 1 in seven out of fifteen wheat starch samples (meaning that the gluten content was underestimated) (1).

g.     Researchers concluded, “The considerable variation of gliadin to glutenin ratios confirmed the need for a reliable, non-immunochemical analytical method capable of accurately quantitating both gliadin and gluten in wheat starch samples to ensure the safety of gluten-free foods for coeliac disease patients.” (1)

Bottom Line: If you choose to eat foods made from wheat starch make sure:

1.The product is labeled gluten-free.

2.The manufacturer and/or supplier are testing wheat starch for gluten using both the sandwich and competitive R5 ELISAs.

Note: Gluten Free Watchdog has completed testing on wheat starch and foods containing wheat starch using both the sandwich and competitive R5 ELISAs. As was expected, wheat starch not labeled gluten-free contained higher levels of gluten and gluten fragments than wheat starch labeled gluten-free. Nonetheless, wheat starch labeled gluten-free contained small levels of both intact and hydrolyzed gluten.

For a listing of products tested please click HERE. Test results are available to subscribers of GFWD.

*Note: Because of R-biopharm’s recommendation to test wheat starch with the competitive R5 ELISA, GFWD has been in communication with Schar regarding testing.

Statement from Schar regarding their testing protocol:

“Dr. Schar has a long-standing experience in gluten testing as Dr. Schär adheres to the strictest gluten thresholds since more than 30 years. Every product batch is tested to assure the compliance with the legal treshold of 20 ppm. Before Dr. Schar introduced certified gluten free wheat starch the potential suppliers were thoroughly tested with all available validated test methods and in collaboration with the leading test kit manufacturers to assure the security of the products containing gluten free wheat starch. Finally the supplier with the most effective gluten removal technology and the best sensoric results was chosen to guarantee the same high standard for wheat starch containing gluten free products. Schär tested all Gluten Free Croissant batches with both the sandwich and competitive R5 ELISAs and all results were below 20 ppm gluten. Schar will regularly test croissants using both the sandwich and competitive R5 ELISAs per the recommendation of R-biopharm.”


1.     Proceedings of the 27th Meeting Working Group on Prolamin Analysis and Toxicity. Analytical Research Reports. Katharina Konitzer, Herbert Wieser, Peter Koehler. German Research Centre for Food Chemistry, Leibniz Institute, Freising, Germany. Quantitation of gluten in wheat starch by gel permeation chromatography with fluorescence detection Available at:

2.     R-biopharm. Ridascreen Gliadin Competitive. Available at:

© Copyright April 2015 by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD for Gluten Free Watchdog. All Rights Reserved. Updated October 14, 2015.

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Comments (16)

  • Honor

    I am a long time celiac. I found a deal on Panda Gluten Free Jelly Beans that were labeld GF and did not read the small print (which state it contained wheat starch with the gluten removed). It was such a good deal and I was on a sugar binge. Ate these damn things days on end. Usually I have diharrea right after eating foods marked gf but not certified (I know I take my chances).

    I did not experience with the wheat-starch laden candies. Instead, I was fatigued for days on end as I was eating them. Brain fog and depression, too. Finally, I had to trace back to what I had been eating since I was feeling so awful. Finally, saw the small print about wheat starch on the boxes. Believe me….it still does affect us and I am terribly disappointed in Schar since they were one my trusted processed foods.And, shame of FDA for letting us down yet again.

    October 30, 2015 at 11:33 pm
  • Debi Reply

    I’m a new celiac and it seems to me you absolutely cannot eat anything that has wheat, oats, rye, barley, including malt barley or yeast (the body sees yeast as gluten and attacks it.) You basically have to eat clean foods like a potato, a chicken, a tomato, anything that is grown from the land, nothing processed at all. That’s how they lived off the land before, its only since they have poisoned us with chemicals and processes and sugar that we are all becoming ill, not just celiac sufferers.

    February 10, 2016 at 5:13 pm
    • no Reply

      Yeast? Please, do your research! This is NOT true! If it were, no one would be baking home made GF bread, OR eating Udi’s. There is absolutely nothing the antibodies attack that IS NOT gluten. This is basic science!!!

      Stop spreading lies, this is hard enough when most people won’t just learn how to cook for themselves.

      March 15, 2016 at 2:03 pm
      • JJ Reply

        Please don’t attack people new to celiac diagnosis. She clearly isn’t intentionally “spreading lies.” I think you could have worded your response differently instead of with anger.

        December 7, 2016 at 5:45 pm
  • Sara Reply

    I tried Schar Gluten-Free Croissants last night and I’m so sick today!

    Shame on the FDA for loosening ‘gluten-free’ standards to make the food manufacturing lobby happy, when people’s health is at stake.

    Stay away from Schar Gluten-Free Croissants and other products with ‘gluten-free’ wheat starch, fellow celiacs! 20ppm is more than many of us can tolerate safely.

    July 27, 2016 at 4:51 pm
  • linda schwartz Reply

    I used the Nima Sensor to test the Schar Gluten Free Croissants and it came up, “low gluten.” I called the Schar company and was told that the strictest methods for testing were used and there could be no more than 5ppm. It seems that would be impossible. I did not give the croissant to my Celiac son, but would be interested if anyone has had any experiences with them. Thanks.

    February 6, 2017 at 8:47 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Linda,
      We’ve done extensive testing of these croissants. If you are a member the test reports are available at
      Did you test the plain croissants or the chocolate croissants? Do you have any unopened bags of croissants with the same lot number?

      February 6, 2017 at 9:33 pm
      • linda schwartz Reply

        Thanks Tricia, Schar just called me back (from an inquiry earlier in the day), I gave them the lot number and they are retesting from their supply. They sounded pretty convincing that the amount of testing that they do would make it almost impossible to be above the limit. They are testing and letting me know the results. I will update when I hear back from them. Have you tried out the Nima sensor yet? They sound pretty convinced that it wouldn’t register low gluten without 20ppm present in them. Thanks!

        February 6, 2017 at 9:43 pm
        • Tricia Thompson Reply

          According to the Nima website low gluten means 5 ppm to 15,000 ppm gluten. This is a huge range. Also, this device has not yet been validated. Did you test the croissant or the filling or a little of both? Do you have any croissants left from the opened bag?

          February 6, 2017 at 9:52 pm
          • linda schwartz

            I only tested the croissant part, not the chocolate inside. I still have the bag of croissants in my freezer. My son is hoping the test will prove he can have them as we have heard they are delicious! I have spoken to Nima company twice. It seems it is very rare for the sensor to test positive between 5-19. They only list it as it has rarely occurred and they want to remain transparent. They recommend taking any sample with low-gluten to mean that it represents over 20ppm. The reason it’s not a more perfect science is sample sizes could be slightly different. I have tested a number of products – with believable results – such as boxed gluten free cookies and breads from dedicated gluten free bakeries as well as snack foods.

            February 6, 2017 at 9:58 pm
          • Tricia Thompson

            Linda, please keep in mind that the only way for the Nima team to know the true ppm value of a product is to test it with a fully validated ELISA. Lateral flow devices can have low limits of detection depending upon the matrix. We are in the process of comparing the Nima to the R5 ELISA. And again, the Nima Sensor team has not yet released a validation report for this device. This doesn’t mean the result you are seeing isn’t accurate but it does make it very difficult for the testing community to evaluate this device.

            February 6, 2017 at 11:41 pm
          • linda schwartz

            Tricia – thank you so much for all the information! Greatly appreciated!

            February 6, 2017 at 11:46 pm
        • Nat Reply

          Hi Linda,

          I’m curious to find out if you ever got a response from the company? Please update this forum if/when you have more information. Thank you so much for looking into this!

          February 27, 2017 at 3:18 pm
          • linda schwartz

            Hi – Yes, Schar got back to me last week. They tested with both Elisa and Nima and they said it was gluten free. Therefore, I made them for my son over the weekend. I re-tested, using the crumbs from the bottom of the bag, and it came back gluten free this time. I am guessing it was just a random sample problem (perhaps my sample was too small initially?). As a side note, my son said they were delicious so we’ll be buying them again! Thanks for checking back!

            February 28, 2017 at 2:16 pm
          • Nat

            Hi Linda,

            Thanks for letting me know! I actually tried them for the first time yesterday morning, and I’ve had zero ill effects. I’m a very sensitive celiac, so I was really excited. Yay, for new and safe gf foods! All the best to you and yours 🙂

            February 28, 2017 at 2:19 pm
  • linda schwartz Reply

    they were the hazelnut croissants.

    February 6, 2017 at 9:44 pm

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