Yeast extract confusion redux

Yeast extract confusion redux

In 2019, we wrote about a consumer complaint we received for a labeled gluten-free soup. The product includes the ingredient “flavors (including yeast extract).” Long story short, the consumer who contacted us was told by customer service representatives that brewer’s yeast is the source of the yeast extract. However, she did not receive a definitive answer regarding whether the brewer’s yeast is spent brewer’s yeast.

Fast forward to 2024. Gluten Free Watchdog received a consumer inquiry about the autolyzed yeast extract ingredient in Idahoan Cheesy Scalloped Homestyle Casserole. The consumer was advised by the manufacturer that the source of the yeast extract is brewer’s yeast. Upon further inquiry by Gluten Free Watchdog about whether the brewer’s yeast is spent brewer’s yeast, we received the following response: “This information is held by our suppliers; Our ingredients are safe, come from approved sources, and are following the FDA guidelines.”

Generally speaking, we do not advise contacting manufacturers about labeled gluten-free foods containing yeast extract. The assumption being that a manufacturer will not label a food as gluten-free if the source is spent brewer’s yeast. However, it is concerning that Idahoan will not tell us whether the brewer’s yeast is spent brewer’s yeast.

Why information about yeast extract matters

The ingredient “yeast extract” may be “spent brewer’s yeast.” Spent brewer’s yeast is generally a by-product of beer brewing—what is left of the yeast once it has been used to make beer. Consequently, spent brewer’s yeast may include gluten from malt and grain.

Brewer’s yeast isn’t always spent brewer’s yeast.  And we do not know how often the ingredient “yeast extract” is actually spent brewer’s yeast.  In the US, there is no requirement for barley to be declared in the ingredients list if barley is not part of the common or usual name for an ingredient (such as the ingredient “malt”). This is why we need manufacturers to be transparent about ingredients. It is also why we need gluten-containing grains added to the Food Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.

Bottom Line: Give your money to manufacturers who are forthcoming with you about the source of their ingredients. Avoid those brands that withhold information important to your health.

Gluten Free Watchdog’s recommendation: Individuals with celiac disease should avoid products NOT labeled gluten-free containing the ingredient “yeast extract” unless the manufacturer confirms the source to be gluten-free. However, generally speaking, we do not want folks with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders to start worrying about yeast extract in foods labeled gluten-free.

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Comments (2)

  • Melinda Reply

    You don’t make a distinction between products labeled “gluten free” and “certified gluten free” (the latter with the third-party gluten-free organization’s insignia). My painful experience has taught me that many products simply labeled “gluten free” without the oversight and testing by a third-party certifying organization are more vulnerable to containing gluten –likely due to less vigilance by the manufacturer, less knowledge by the manufacturer on what is gluten, and all the many risks of cross-contamination. So, I would highly recommend what you explained but add only buy from bona fide “certified gluten-free” labeled products.

    January 30, 2024 at 10:22 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      At Gluten Free Watchdog, with a few exceptions, we do not recommend certified gluten-free foods over labeled gluten-free foods that are not certified. Based on our testing, certified gluten-free foods also occasionally test at/above 20 parts per million of gluten. That said, a certification organization may be very helpful when trying to determine the source of an ingredient, making sure that manufacturers are following the FDA’s 2020 rule on gluten-free labeling of fermented and hydrolyzed foods and ingredients, or following up on consumer complaints received by GFWD.

      January 31, 2024 at 8:12 pm

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