Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How do I know if vinegar is gluten-free?

Question to Melanie:
I have been told that distilled white vinegar is made from wheat and not acceptable on a gluten free diet.  I am now seeing Annie's and Organicville gluten free products contain a vinegar that is NOT apple cider, rice or wine vinegar.  Will these products still be acceptable for a celiac or gluten free diet?  What about a corn free diet?

Melanie's Answer*:
As a baseline, distilled vinegars can be strained through grains including wheat, but should not contain gluten in the end result due to the distillation process.  This being said, the most common grain for vinegar to be distilled from is corn or rice.  Annie's and Organicville's vinegar is distilled from corn, based on our status updates.  We request information regarding vinegar's grain status due to multiple allergens of our customers. That being said, malt vinegars always contain gluten (and might be listed only as vinegar despite FDA guidelines) and vinegars that are produced in a facility that produces wheat or gluten are always at risk for gluten contamination.  Therefore, the safest option for Celiac Disease would be a distilled, apple cider, rice or wine vinegar that has tested below 5-20ppm (depending on who you ask) is best.

In regards to a corn free diet.  The same issue arises as gluten free; distilled vinegars can be strained through grains including corn, but should not contain corn in the end result due to the distillation process.  However, a product that is made in a facility that produces corn can be cross contaminated.

*Please note that Melanie's answers are based on knowledge acquired over the past decade and do not include cited references.  Gluten Free Handouts contain cited refrences and are available

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Questions to Ask a Manufacturer

While there are many questions that help an individual understand how safe a gluten free product is.  It is important to take into consideration first, what your level of gluten sensitivity is.

Sourcing Products for Gluten Sensitive Individuals*

For Celiacs and many gluten sensitive individuals, even microscopic amounts of gluten must be avoided.  For these individuals, care must be taken beyond whether a product is source with gluten free ingredients.  Other concerns include (1) where were the ingredients processed and (2) where was the product processed.  For Celiacs 1/6th of a bread crumb, approximately 20ppm, is enough to turn on the immune response.

*Gluten Sensitive individuals include individuals not intolerant at the microscopic level

At Gluten Free Specialty Market and Distribution in Sacramento, products are sourced on many levels including the basics.

Gluten Free Basics Include:
  • (1) Do you have a list of gluten free products that your company manufactures?
  • (2) Are your gluten free products free from wheat, rye, and barley or the derivatives there of?
  • (3) Are your products free from oats or their derivatives?
  • (4) If your products have oats what ppm are they tested at? (gf oats test below 20ppm)
  • (5) Product specific questions go here:
                      Some product specific questions include:
  •                             (a) "Starch" - What grain(s) is your starch derived from
  •                             (b) "Dextrin" - What grain(s) is your dextrin derived from
  •                             (c) "Natural Flavorings" - does your natural flavoring come from grain      
  •                                  (including vitamins)
  •                             (d) "Vitamins" - are your vitamins derived from grains like gluten
  •                             (e) "Flavoring" - is your flavoring derived from grains like gluten
  •                             (f) "Plant or Vegetable Protein" - what is your vegetable protein sourced from
  •                             (g) "Modified Food Starch" - what grain(s) is your starch derived from
  •                             (h) "Poultry or Meat Products" - don't have to disclose grain additions**. 
*RE Poultry and Meat: Contact company directly regarding the status of their meat.  If a manufacturing company utilizes another company's poultry or meat, contact the poultry company or meat company directly.

Sourcing Products for the Celiac Population and for Microscopic Gluten Sensitivities

For Celiacs and gluten sensitive individuals at the microscopic level, care must be taken to learning (1) ingredients, (2) facility lines and (3) gluten testing information

(1) Ingredients sourcing can be viewed on one of our previous blogs Gluten Containing Foods and Ingredients
(2) Facility Line sourcing requires contacting companies and learning more about their production facilities.  Some corporations will not do this for you, but most small owned businesses will be happy to help you out.
(3) Gluten Testing Information:
 There are many types of gluten testing that can be done. The four most commonly accepted tests include:
(a) the Elisa Assay Test (must be performed accurately by a person with basic chemistry knowledge) -tests should be performed on both raw ingredients and final product.
(b) the CSA (Celiac Sprue Association) Seal of Approval: requires gluten free at 5ppm or below, no gluten ingredients used and no oats. 
(c) the GFCO (Gluten Free Certification Organization): requires gluten free at 20ppm or below (tests at 10ppm or below).  Test is for final product only.
(d) Independant Labs - Some labs will run tests for gluten screening for manufacutures.  Independant labs require a third party analysis, as this prevents in house problems that can occur when attempting to pass a product off as gluten free in order to make money based on the increasing profitability of the gluten-free market.  Labs can test both raw and final product, testing both is best.