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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is barley malt extract?

Malt extract and malt flavourings are commonly made from barley, although they can be produced from other grains. Barley malt extract is a flavouring often added in small amounts to breakfast cereals and chocolates.

Foods that contain barley malt extract in smaller amounts can be eaten by people with coeliac disease. However, any foods that contain barley malt extract will be labelled as containing barley and you will not be able to tell from the ingredients list how much has been used. Products containing barley malt extract that are labelled gluten free are suitable for people with coeliac disease.

The own brand breakfast cereals listed on our Food and Drink Information are suitable for people with coeliac disease. They contain a very small amount of barley malt extract and are tested to make sure they contain 20 parts per million or less of gluten which is a safe level of gluten for people with coeliac disease. However, because they contain barley malt extract you will see this listed and emphasised in the ingredients list.

If you see barley malt extract in a product that is not listed in the Food and Drink Guide or on our Food and Drink Information Service then contact our Helpline or the manufacturer for more information.

Can I eat barley malt vinegar?

Yes.

Barley malt vinegar is made from barley and is found in pickles, chutneys and some sauces. If it is used in a food product the manufacturer must list the word ‘barley’ in the ingredients list in line with EU wide allergen labelling law. 

Barley malt vinegar is made using a fermentation process. This means that the amount of barley, and therefore gluten, in the end product is extremely small and is well below a level which is safe for people with coeliac disease. In addition, barley malt vinegar is usually only eaten in small amounts, for example, drained pickled vegetables, sauces with a meal or on chips.

Balsamic, cider, sherry, spirit, white wine and red wine vinegar are not made from barley and can also be included in your gluten free diet.

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 Codex 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.

See our communion wafer list. 

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 modified starch?

Modified starch is used in many products and can be derived from a variety of sources. If the source is a cereal that contains gluten, manufacturers must list this in the ingredients list in line with the EU wide allergen labelling law, for example modified wheat starch. If you see modified starch on the ingredients list and it does not refer to a cereal that contains gluten, such as wheat, this must be from a cereal that does not contain gluten and is gluten free.

Why isn’t Marmite listed in the Food & Drink Guide?

Although it was suitable in the past, Marmite is no longer suitable for a gluten-free diet as it contains slightly more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

Yeast extract (which Marmite is made from) can be made as a by product of bread, wine and beer making. Although the ingredient and manufacturing processes have not changed, recent information received from the makers of Marmite indicates that despite thorough washing, it contains slightly more than the 20 ppm gluten standard, now defined by law.

If in the past you have included Marmite in your gluten free diet, it is highly unlikely that it will have been harmful as it is usually only consumed in small amounts.

You can contact the Unilever Careline on 0800 010 109 directly if you would like to speak to someone about the suitability of Marmite.

Please see our Food and Drink Guide for alternative yeast extract products which are suitable for a gluten free diet.

Yeast extract products which are suitable are listed in our online Food and Drink Information Service.

What is gluten-free (Codex) wheat starch?

Gluten-free wheat starch, also known as Codex 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 Codex 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 part 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 Codex wheat starch should no longer cause a problem for people with coeliac disease. 

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

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

 

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.

What alcohol can I drink?

Cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port and liqueurs are gluten-free. Beer, lagers, stouts and ales contain varying amounts of gluten and are not suitable if you have coeliac disease. Specially manufactured gluten free beers are available and are listed in your Food and Drink Guide in Section 1 Drinks chapter.

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