‘Gluten-free’ but contains a gluten containing grain in the list of ingredients. Is it safe?



Have you ever seen a product labelled as gluten free but when searching through the list of ingredients you are dismayed to see items like wheat, barley or rye listed? Do you worry when a gluten free item contains glucose syrups or maltodextrin made from wheat?


These products are safe for people with coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity and I will explain why in this post.


If a product is labelled as gluten free it must contain less than a cut-off level of gluten that has been deemed safe for coeliacs. In Europe, the UK, USA and Canada this level is less than 20ppm of gluten. In Australia and New Zealand gluten free means no detectable gluten- this level is becoming lower as modern technology improves the sensitivity of testing.


However, a gluten free product can contain wheat , barley, rye, oats or any of their derivatives in the list of ingredients. In the UK and Europe these gluten containing ingredients must be labelled, no matter how little is used and that is why they are sometimes found in the ingredients list.

On the other hand, items like glucose syrup, wheat based maltodextrin and alcoholic spirits made from cereals that contain gluten can also be labelled as gluten free because the grain highly processed and the gluten is removed. Although some manufacturers do list gluten containing grains like wheat in these products, they are not required to do this by law in the UK and Europe when gluten has been removed by processing .


In the US, although the law requires wheat to be listed on food labels, manufacturers are not required to list gluten, so determining if any product contains gluten is more difficult considering the names gluten can be hiding behind. If a product is specifically labelled as gluten-free, it saves alot of detective work.


Note that although 20ppm has been ruled as safe for coeliacs, I know that some still complain of reacting to this small amount of gluten in products. In my opinion, every individual should consume these products or not based on their own personal experience.


Wheat free/Gluten free

It is important to note that wheat free is not necessarily gluten free. Although wheat does contain gluten, gluten can also be found in barley, rye and their derivatives, as well as in contaminated oats. Alternatively, gluten free is not surely wheat free as the product may contain wheat starch  or products derived from wheat but that meet the criteria for gluten free labelling. Although these products are safe for most people with coeliac disease, wheat allergy sufferes should avoid consuming these items.




photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/orangeacid/3949510671/”>orangeacid</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;



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