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 (8)

  • 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
  • Caroline Huot Reply

    Integrating technology into the gluten-free labeling process could revolutionize how consumers interact with food products. Imagine a world where, instead of deciphering labels, individuals could use a smartphone app to scan products and immediately understand their gluten content and certification status. This approach would not only simplify shopping for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity but also ensure a higher level of transparency and trust in food labeling. Leveraging technology in this way could empower consumers, giving them instant access to detailed product information, including sourcing and processing details that affect gluten status. Such innovation would mark a significant step forward in making gluten-free living more manageable and less fraught with uncertainty.

    March 2, 2024 at 8:35 am
  • Jane Reply

    I emailed Idahoan at their customer care email. Here is how it went.

    Me: “Hello, I was wondering whether your Idahoan scalloped potatoes product’s autolyzed yeast extract comes from brewer’s yeast or spent brewer’s yeast. Thank you!”

    Idahoan: “Thank you for reaching out to us. Your question about Yeast; Ingredient supply companies don’t say because they are protecting their unique flavors, and the law doesn’t require them to. Here at Idahoan Foods, we only make use of wholesome, sustainable, and safe ingredients.”

    Me: “Thank you for your timely response. However, if the ingredient supply companies don’t say which type of yeast they use, how do you ensure your product is gluten free and meets the FDA’s <20 ppm standard? Thanks again!"

    Idahoan: "We are stated as Gluten Free per the FDA regulations and testing. We advise all consumers consult with their physicians when making any decisions about what products they should or should not consume. We understand that there are certain health concerns that limit one’s food choices. If you feel uncomfortable with our stated ingredients, we advise you to not use our products."

    I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say who it was that was responding to me or if it even matters, but it was the same person who replied to me both times. I hope this helps anyone make informed decisions about eating Idahoan products! Their source is just "trust me bro" but I've been fine with the scalloped potatoes so I think I'll trust that their gluten-free label is legitimate. But I wish companies were legally obligated to be transparent about their ingredients and sources 🙁
    It's probably best to give your money only to companies who are transparent, but man I really hate giving up more and more foods. I just want my easy yummy scalloped potatoes, you know?
    Anyway… FDA.. your move.

    March 15, 2024 at 6:58 pm
  • Julie Reply

    Doew anyone have experience with Goya Yellow Rice Spanish style Arroz Amarillo. It is labeled GF on the front. The ingredient list includes yeast extract. Waiting for a response from the company. Feeling awful the past 6 months. Diagnosed celiac in 2013. Home is GF.

    May 19, 2024 at 7:31 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Can you please let us know if the manufacturer told you the source of the yeast extract. Thank you.

      May 21, 2024 at 2:31 pm
  • Julie Reply

    This is the response I received from GOYA; going to copy and paste it. The box I have does not say may contain on it:

    Thank you for contacting Goya Foods, Inc.

    We have always maintained the highest quality products available and will continue to do so for the sake of our loyal consumers.

    Regarding Yellow Rice Spanish Style Arroz Amarillo product it does not contain gluten as part of an ingredient, nonetheless Yellow Rice Spanish Style Arroz Amarillo it is susceptible to Cross Contamination at the manufacturing site.

    Allergen labeling, Goya Foods declares food allergens in accordance with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 and we also follow the FDA’s and USDA’s labeling requirements. We list the top nine food allergens, including sesame, in a “Contains” statement in bold under the ingredient list. Also, when labeling for allergens, we use the term “May Contain” if there is a possibility of cross contact with any other food allergen.

    Goya Products Gluten List

    Your patronage of GOYA Foods is appreciated and we hope to continue to count you amongst our many valued consumers.

    May 22, 2024 at 4:35 pm

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