Gluten Free

A guide to providing Gluten Free food

There are many reasons why some people require a gluten free diet.

  • Coeliac Disease
  • IBS
  • General Intolerance

Note that in order for a product to be defined as gluten free it needs to contain less than a certain amount of gluten although the precise figure differs from country to country. Currently in Europe the definition is 200 ppm (parts per million), in the US the FDA defines it as less than 20 ppm. In Australia and New Zealand I think it is 6 ppm.

Legislation comes into force in Europe in 2012 to redefine gluten free to the less than 20 ppm level, with 21 ppm to 100 ppm labelled as ‘very low gluten‘ and 101ppm – 200ppm to be ‘low gluten

Gluten is a molecule found in many cereal crops (Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats etc…) although there are differences between the particular molecule found in different cereals. If someone has a problem with wheat gluten then they will also need to avoid rye and barley products as well.

Avoiding the base products is fairly simple – check the ingredients and if it contains wheat, rye or barley it is definitely not suitable.  The difficulty is identifying all the derivative products and even production processes that introduce gluten to foodstuffs. There are many ingredients in processed food which can be derived from multiple sources, some safe for the gluten intolerant and others not.

Unfortunately in the UK there is no requirement to state the what an ingredient is derived from, so many individual  products have to be discounted simply because of inadequate labelling. For example starch can be created from any carbohydrate source, ie corn (common in US), potato, rice which are all safe and wheat (common in Europe), barley, rye etc… which aren’t.  In the UK unless the starch ingredient  specifically states it is from a non gluten source we have to assume it is unsafe.

Product ingredients which similarly can be derived from multiple sources are..

  • starch
  • flour
  • vegetable oil
  • glucose, dextrose, dextrin, maltodextrin, fructose etc… in fact most sugar forms.
  • vinegar (even spirit vinegar can come from grain)
  • vodka – most vodka is made from barley grains but traditional potato vodka can still be found.

Further complications arise when you consider the potential of cross contamination.  For example substituting wheat flour with cornflour might seem a safe option, however if the cornflour has been processed in a plant which also processes wheat grain, it is unlikely to be gluten free.

See the menu on the left for more information.

The BBC food website has now included some information on gluten free diets and has  recipes categorised as gluten free. Making a good resource for recipe ideas.

3 Comments

  1. Mark says:

    Is Vodka Gluten Free?

    • janimania says:

      Vodka distilled from potato is definitely gluten free.

      However a lot of vodka is distilled from grain (commonly wheat, corn, rye and barley). Wheat rye and barley all have the same shaped gluten molecule.

      I have only ever seen advice that says the distillation process removes all gluten. So distilled spirits are ok. Personally though, I have two unanswered questions that for me introduce reasonable doubt…

      1) I worked for 5 years as a software developer for a company that made software for the chemical engineering (oil, petrol, chemical, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, water companies and more) domain.
      For several years I was part of a team working on simulation and optimisation software for distillation columns. So I can tell you that not all distillates are equal. Just because it is a spirit there is no guarantee the process has removed all the contaminants.

      2) If the drinks industry really distils everything to such an extent that only the alcohol remains from the initial pulp or malt what is the point of differentiation?

      Subjectively, I personally noticed a correlation between grain based spirits and an increase in the pain associated with my IBS symptoms.

      Objectively, we need someone to test for the PPM levels of gluten in a bunch of spirits. Can it be that hard?

      At this point in time there is no science, there are no gurus. Only you can determine what effect various vodkas have on you. Try …

        no vodkas [or other spirits] for 6 weeks
        only using potato vodkas for 6 weeks,
        only grain vodkas for 6 weeks

      record how much you drink, and when.
      record all the parameters of the symptoms you associate with gluten.

      Above all else, be objective. Look at the evidence. Most people do not have any problem with gluten. This is a really important point, because there are a lot of people out there trying to make money from your insecurities.

      Addendum
      a) Don’t blindly assume you have an intolerance (allergies are really obvious; rashes, swelling, breathing difficulties, anaphylaxis and death) every time someone misuses the term they dilute the seriousness of real conditions and increase the potential earnings for exploitative scum.

      b) I’ve been busy drinking alcohol all evening abd have completley forgotten the point of this response. I might update it in the future…

  2. Hebergement web says:

    Some cereal grains, although gluten-free in themselves, may contain gluten by cross-contamination during processing steps or transport; this includes oats .