Under Revision! Updates to this Labeling Section based on the finalized FDA Gluten Free Labeling Law are coming soon. In the meantime, please visit the following sites for more information:
Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods
Foods Labeled Gluten-Free Must Now be in Compliance with the FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Rule
- There are many ingredients you may come across on a food label that you really don't need to worry about. 1Here's why:
- Blue cheese 2
Unless wheat, barley, rye, or malt is included in the ingredients list or Contains statement blue cheese is fine for you to eat. The mold in blue cheese may be grown on a variety of materials including wheat, barley, and rye. But only purified mold spores are used in the cheese culture. Blue cheese containing mold spores grown on gluten-containing materials have been tested by the Canadian Celiac Association.3 Results were below the assay's lower limit of quantification for gluten of 5 parts per million (ppm).
- Caramel (even if wheat is listed as the source) 4, 5
Caramel is a coloring agent that may be made from a variety of sources including malt syrup and starch hydrolysates, such as wheat starch hydrolysates. However, caramel is most often made from corn starch. Regardless of the starting material, caramel is considered gluten-free. Even if made from wheat or barley it is highly unlikely that it would cause an otherwise gluten-free food to contain 20 ppm or more gluten.
Don't confuse the ingredient caramel which is used as a food coloring with caramel candy.
- Distilled alcohol
Regardless of whether distilled alcohol is made from wheat, barley, or rye it is considered gluten-free. For detailed information, please see the section on alcohol .
- Glucose syrup (even if wheat is listed as the source)
Glucose syrup is a starch hydrolysate that is sometimes made from wheat starch or barley starch. For products sold in the US, this ingredient is most likely made from corn starch. Regardless of the starting material, glucose syrup is considered gluten-free. Even if made from wheat or barley it is highly unlikely that it would cause an otherwise gluten-free food to contain 20 ppm or more gluten.
- Dextrose is simply another word for glucose. It is considered gluten-free regardless of starting material.
- Maltodextrin (even if wheat is listed as the source) 6
Maltodextrin is a starch hydrolysate that may be made from wheat starch but is usually made from corn starch, especially in the US. Regardless of the starting material, maltodextrin is considered gluten free. Even if made from wheat or barley it is highly unlikely that it would cause an otherwise gluten-free food to contain 20 ppm or more gluten.
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) 7-10
MSG is the salt of the amino acid glutamic acid. Various starches and sugars may be used as starting materials but wheat starch does not appear to be one of them. Even if it was, it is highly unlikely that the salt of glutamic acid would contain traces of gluten.
- Natural flavor 11
Unless wheat, barley, rye, or malt are included in the ingredients list or Contains statement of a product containing natural flavor, the natural flavor is most likely free of gluten.
- Sorbitol and other sugar alcohols (e.g., xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, etc)
Sugar alcohols rarely may be derived from glucose syrup that is derived from wheat starch or barley starch. Glucose syrup is considered gluten-free regardless of the starting materials so sorbitol and other sugar alcohols are considered gluten-free, too.
- The single word "spice" or "spices" 12
"Spice" or "spices" in an ingredient list are naturally gluten-free. Spices such as basil, oregano, and thyme may be listed collectively in the ingredients list. In other words, the ingredient list does not need to name each spice. If any non-spice ingredients, such as starch are included in a spice mixture, they must be included in the ingredients list by their common or usual name.
- The single word "starch" in FDA-regulated foods 13
The single word "starch" in the ingredients list of FDA-regulated food products means "corn starch."
- The single word "vinegar" 14, 15
The single word "vinegar" in an ingredients list means "vinegar made from apples." The following vinegars also are okay for you to eat: cider vinegar, apple vinegar, wine vinegar, grape vinegar, distilled vinegar, and balsamic vinegar.
Malt vinegar is NOT okay for you to eat because it contains barley. Flavored vinegars also may contain malt as an ingredient.
Whey is a protein found in milk. It is naturally gluten-free.
- There are a few additional ingredients that may cause some confusion, as well. These include:
- Rice syrup 16
Rice syrup or brown rice syrup is a liquid sweetener made from rice. Enzymes are added to the rice to break down the starch into sugar. These enzymes are sometimes derived from barley. It is unknown at this time whether barley enzymes may sometimes contain enough barley protein to be problematic for individuals with celiac disease but this seems very unlikely. Testing done on barley enzymes and products made using barley enzymes found them to contain below the limit of quantification for gluten.
- Seasonings 17
If you come across the words "seasoning" or "seasonings" in an ingredient list and a sub-ingredient list isn't provided you may want to avoid the product because it is likely misbranded. Seasoning is not an ingredient that may be listed collectively in an ingredients list. Any spices, flavoring, or colorings included in the seasoning may be listed collectively but all other ingredients must be named. If you do not see the words wheat, barley, rye, or malt in the sub-ingredient list, the seasoning probably does not contain gluten.
TAKE HOME MESSAGES:
- In general you can eat foods containing blue cheese, caramel, glucose syrup, MSG, maltodextrin, natural flavor, spice, sorbitol (and other sugar alcohols), vinegar, and starch.
- Unless a seasoning ingredient includes wheat, barley, rye, or malt in its sub-ingredient list it most likely does not include gluten-containing ingredients.
- Rice syrup, brown rice syrup and products containing these ingredients may use barley-based enzymes as processing aids. Regardless, these products are probably fine for you to eat.
RESOURCES FOR YOU:
Thompson, T. ADA Pocket Guide to Gluten-Free Strategies for Clients with Multiple Diet Restrictions . American Dietetic Association. Chicago, IL, 2011.
Thompson T, Case S. Food Labeling in the United States and Canada. In Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten-Free . Eds. Dennis M, Leffler D. AGA Press. Bethesda, MD. 2010.
Gluten-Free Dietitian Newsletter. Gluten-Free and Nutritious Too. http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/ .
- Thompson, T. ADA Pocket Guide to Gluten-Free Strategies for Clients with Multiple Diet Restrictions . American Dietetic Association. Chicago, IL, 2011.
- Gluten-free Dietitian. Blue Cheese. http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/blue-cheese . Accessed October 19, 2011.
- Anca, A. Blue cheese in the gluten-free diet: a research update. Celiac News. 2009;23:1-5.http://www.glutenfreediet.ca . Accessed September 10, 2010.
- Gluten-free Dietitian. Caramel Color. http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/caramel-color/ . Accessed October 19, 2011.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Code of Federal Regulations. Caramel. 21CFR73.85. Revised April 2009.
- Gluten-free Dietitian. Maltodextrin. http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/maltodextrin/ . Accessed October 19, 2011.
- Gluten-free Dietitian. Monosodium Glutamate.http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/2011/03/03/monosodium-glutamate/ . Accessed October 19, 2011.
- Ault, Addison. The Monosodium Glutamate Story: The Commercial Production of MSG and Other Amino Acids. Journal of Chemical Education. 2004;81:347-355. Available at: http://www.cornellcollege.edu/chemistry/cstrong/512/MSG.pdf
- Sano, Chiaki. History of Glutamate Production. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;90:728S-732S. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/90/3/728S/4597145
- Matheis, Gunter. Flavor Modifiers. In Philip R. Ashurst editor Food Flavorings. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Aspen Publishers. 1999:367-405.
- Gluten-free Dietitian. Flavorings and Extracts: Are They Gluten Free?http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/flavorings-extracts-are-they-gluten-free/ . Accessed October 19, 2011.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Code of Federal Regulations. Foods; labeling of spices, flavorings, colorings, and chemical preservatives. 21CFR101.22. Revised April 2009.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Starches-common or usual names. Compliance Policy Guide. CPG Sec.578.100. October 1980.
- Gluten-free Dietitian. Vinegar! http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/vinegar/ . Accessed October 19, 2011.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Vinegar: definitions. Compliance Policy Guide. CPG Sec. 525.825. April 1977, rev. March 1995.
- Gluten-free Dietitian. Barley Enzymes in Gluten-Free Products.http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/barley-enzymes-in-gluten-free-products/ . Accessed October 19, 2011.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Labeling of seasonings. Compliance Policy Guide. CPG Sec 525.650. October 1980.
Revision Date: 8-29-12
Author: Tricia Thompson, MS, RD
Editors: Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN and Daniel Leffler, MD, MS