Food and drink queries

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Food and drink queries

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I find out what foods I can eat?

We publish an annual Food and Drink Guide which lists thousands of foods you can eat, and a Gluten-free Checklist which are free to Members. You can order publications from our online shop.

Can I eat oats?

Oats do not contain gluten. They contain a similar protein called avenin and research has shown that most people with coeliac disease can safely eat avenin.

The main problem with a lot of the oats and oat products that you find in the supermarket is that they are very often contaminated with gluten from wheat, rye or barley during processing (such as harvesting or milling). Therefore, oats that are NOT labelled as gluten free should always be avoided.

Many specialist manufacturers now produce gluten free oats. 

If you have an ongoing symptoms or any concerns about including gluten free oats in your diet, please speak to your health professional.  

What is gluten free wheat starch?

Gluten free wheat starch is a specially produced ingredient where the gluten has been removed to a trace level. It is used by some manufacturers to improve the quality and texture of gluten free products. It must always appear in the ingredients list if it has been used. 

Foods containing wheat starch that are labelled gluten free are suitable for all people with coeliac disease. In the past, the Codex standard for labelling for gluten free foods was 200 parts per million, a level that people with coeliac disease could not always tolerate. The law on gluten free must contain no more than 20 ppm. This means that gluten free foods that contain wheat starch should no longer cause a problem for people with coeliac disease. 

Foods that contain wheat starch are highlighted with a blue triangle in the Food and Drink Guide.

If you should have any concern about including products with wheat starch in your diet please speak with your health professional. 

 

What alcohol can I drink?

Cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port and liqueurs are gluten free.

Distilled spirits only contain gluten if gluten containing ingredients are added after the distillation process. In this case, there is labelling legislation that ensures the product label clearly states if wheat, barley, rye or oats have been added.

Distillation involves prolonged heating to produce a vapour and different components will vaporise at different temperatures so they can be separated. The vapour is then collected and cooled to form a distillate (liquid alcoholic drink). 

Gluten does not form a vapour so even if the starting ingredient is wheat, barley or rye, gluten does not pass into the final distilled liquid.  

Drinks with an alcoholic strength by volume (abv) of more than 1.2% do not have to list all ingredients. If they contain an allergen (including gluten containing cereals) they must declare this on the packaging, for example ‘contains wheat’.

An exception, is if the name of the drink contains the name of the allergen, for example ‘wheat beer’, then a statement, ‘contains wheat’ is not required. It should however be clear on the packaging which allergens are present.

Beer, lagers, stouts and ales are not distilled and undergo a different process known as fermentation and contain varying amounts of gluten and are not suitable for a gluten free diet but there are gluten free options available.

There are two types of gluten free beer, naturally gluten free beer and gluten removed gluten free beer. For both types, by law, manufacturers can only label a beer gluten free if it contains 20 ppm or less of gluten. In addition, a gluten removed gluten free beer made from barley must, by allergen labelling law, state on the label that it ‘contains barley’. For more information about fermented,  hydrolysed products please read our article.

Specially manufactured gluten free beers, lagers and ales are available and are listed in Section 1 of our Food and Drink Guide, in our Gluten Free Food Checker app and online Food and Drink Information.

Alcohol can have side effects whether or not you have coeliac disease.  Information on sensible drinking can be found on the NHS website.

More information on alcohol can be found on our website.

Find out more about analysis of gluten in fermented and hydrolysed GF products here.

This information is based on the advice of our Food Standards Committee, Health Advisory Council and/or the Prolamin Working Group

I've heard spelt is suitable for people with coeliac disease. Is this true?

No. Spelt is an ancient strain of wheat and contains gluten. It is not suitable for people with coeliac disease.

Is Chinese soy sauce gluten free?

No. Chinese soy sauce is traditionally made with wheat, which makes it unsuitable for people with coeliac disease. If wheat flour has been used as an ingredient, this must be listed on the ingredients list. Gluten free versions are available in the 'Free From' section of most major supermarkets. There are also some types of tamari soy sauce which are suitable. These are listed on our online Food and Drink Information Service.

 

Can I eat yeast?

Fresh yeast is naturally gluten free. We are now aware of some brands of dried yeasts that now contain wheat starch in the ingredients so they are not gluten free. We therefore now list dried yeasts on our Food and Drink Information Service that do not contain gluten.

 

Can I eat whey powder?

Whey is produced from milk and does not contain gluten.

Can I eat glucose syrup?

Glucose syrup is gluten free. It can be derived from wheat, however the production methods involve a high level of hydrolysation, meaning there is no significant gluten content in the sugars.

The final ingredient is gluten free and foods with glucose syrups can be eaten by people with coeliac disease.

Can I eat maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is gluten-free. It can be made from a variety of cereal starches including wheat, corn (maize), tapioca and rice. Despite the name, maltodextrins are not produced from, nor do they contain barley malt. Even when maltodextrin has been made from wheat, the grain is processed to remove the gluten.

Can I eat dextrose?

Dextrose is gluten free. It can be made from wheat but the production methods involve a high level of hydrolysation, which means that no gluten is left in the sugars. The final ingredient is gluten free and dextrose can be eaten by people with coeliac disease.

Can I eat monosodium glutamate (MSG)?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is gluten free. It is a flavour enhancer used in many manufactured foods and can be made from wheat; however, during processing the wheat protein is completely hydrolysed (broken down) and can be eaten by people with coeliac disease.

 

Can I eat communion wafers?

Wheat, a cereal that contains gluten, is the only substance authorised by the Roman Catholic Church to make Eucharistic bread.

There are special ‘low gluten’ hosts that have been approved for use by individuals with coeliac disease when taking Communion. These products contain wheat starch, but are within the levels for labelling gluten free. Other churches allow communion wafers to be taken which are made entirely from gluten free ingredients and often suppliers will sell two different varieties.

A number of companies produce communion wafers that are suitable for people with coeliac disease. These are often available via mail order. Please see our communion wafer list for a full list of suppliers and the wafers available. Before ordering as an individual it is worth talking to your church as their usual church supplier can sometimes order these for you and minimise delivery charges.

To reduce the risk of contamination with gluten from gluten containing hosts, we would advise that your communion wafers are stored and presented separately. Some people may prefer to abstain from taking communion in the conventional way and have a blessing instead.

I’m confused by the ‘very low gluten’ label. Can I eat foods labelled as this?

Foods labelled ‘very low gluten’ have to be between 21 and 100 part per million gluten. This can only apply to specialist foods made for people with coeliac disease and we are not seeing this label in use in the UK. This level is suitable for most people with coeliac disease but if you are particularly sensitive, it may not be right for you.