Wheat grass, wheat glucose syrup, etc. allowed in foods labeled gluten-free: Here’s why
In Honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month, Gluten Free Watchdog is writing a series of articles (the goal is one per day during the month of May) related to the gluten-free diet–currently the ONLY treatment for celiac disease.
The FDA’s gluten-free labeling rule in brief…
(Note: this rule covers packaged food, including dietary supplements regulated by the FDA; this rule does not cover pet food, cosmetics, prescription or non-prescription drugs, foods regulated by the USDA, or beverages regulated by the TTB)
A food voluntarily labeled gluten-free:
Is inherently gluten-free (e.g., a bag of raw carrots)
Adheres to the following criteria:
- Does not contain an ingredient that is a gluten-containing grain (e.g., wheat)
- Does not contain an ingredient derived from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour)
- May contain an ingredient derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat starch) as long as use of that ingredient in the food does NOT cause the food to contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten
Any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food is less than 20 ppm of gluten
Ingredients allowed in foods labeled gluten-free…
- Wheat grass, barley grass, rye grass
- According to the FDA, “The young grasses of the plants belonging to genera Triticum, Secale, and Hordeum are different from the grains wheat, rye, and barley these plants produce at maturity. Therefore, to be consistent with FDA’s proposed requirements, any grass (or grass juice) could be used as an ingredient to make a food labeled GF, provided that the food does not contain 20 ppm or more gluten, regardless of its source, including the presence of gluten due to cross-contact situations.”
- For more information see, Adrianos, S.L., Mattioni, B., Tilley, M. 2017. Confirmation of gluten-free status of wheatgrass. Quality Assurance and Safety of Crops & Foods. 09(1):123-128 available at https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publication/?seqNo115=322552. Bottom line, “Therefore, wheat grass contains no gluten and is safe for consumption by patients suffering from celiac disease or other gluten related disorders.”
- Wheat starch
- According to the FDA, “Wheat starch is an ingredient made from wheat that has been processed to remove gluten. However, the use of this ingredient must result in under 20 parts per million gluten in the finished food for the food to be labeled “gluten-free.”
- Caramel (color), glucose syrup, maltodextrin, dextrin, and modified food starch made from wheat starch
- All of these ingredients may be made from wheat starch. Just as wheat starch is an allowed ingredient in foods labeled gluten-free, ingredients made from hydrolyzed wheat starch also are allowed in foods labeled gluten-free. The final product must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten.
- Distilled vinegar made from a gluten-containing grain
- According to the FDA, “Distillation is a purification process that separates volatile components from non-volatile components such as proteins. Thus, when properly done, gluten should not be present in distilled foods.”
- Distilled alcohol (as an ingredient in a food product) made from a gluten-containing grain
- Distilled alcohol when present as an ingredient (for example vanilla extract) may be included in foods labeled gluten-free for the same reason stated above for distilled vinegar.
Note: If a food is labeled gluten-free and also includes the word “wheat” in the ingredients list or Contains statement due to the use of ingredients such as “wheat starch” the word “wheat” must be followed by an asterisk leading to another asterisk and the statement, “The wheat has been processed to allow this food to meet the Food and Drug Administration requirements for gluten-free foods.”
Note: None of the above ingredients are considered protein-containing ingredients. These ingredients differ from ingredients NOT allowed in foods labeled gluten-free, such as barley malt and hydrolyzed wheat protein. These ingredients by definition contain protein.
Tomorrow’s post: Yeast extract and other words to look for in the ingredients list of foods NOT labeled gluten-free