Ingredients frequently asked questions
There are a few products that we're contacted about regularly about on our Helpline as the nature of the ingredients or the product label can still cause confusion. We've included more information on these to further help you with your gluten free diet.
Cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port and liqueurs are all gluten free. Experts agree that there is no physical way pure distilled alcohol can contain gluten because the gluten protein cannot travel through to the vapour produced by the prolonged heating in the distillation process and become part of the final alcohol product.
Beer, lagers, stouts and ales contain varying amounts of gluten and are not suitable for a gluten free diet. Use the product search options on the left hand side to find specially manufactured gluten free beers, lagers and ales that are available to you.
Alcohol can have side effects whether or not you have coeliac disease. Information on sensible drinking can be found at www.nhs.uk
Barley malt extract
Foods that contain barley malt extract in smaller amounts can be eaten as part of a gluten free diet. Barley malt extract is a flavouring often added in small amounts to breakfast cereals and chocolates. However, any foods that contain barley malt extract will be labelled and emphasised in the ingredients list as containing barley and you will not be able to tell from the ingredients list how much has been used.
The own brand breakfast cereals listed on our Gluten free food checker app and online 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.
If you see barley malt extract listed in a product that is not labelled gluten free or not listed as suitable by Coeliac UK then contact our Helpline on 0333 332 2033 or contact the manufacturer directly for more information.
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 as an ingredient by some manufacturers to improve their 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 gluten free foods was 200 parts per million (ppm), a level that people with coeliac disease could not always tolerate. The law on gluten free that came into force in 2012 means that all foods that are labelled 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.
If you should have any concerns about including products with Codex wheat starch in your gluten free diet we would recommend that you discuss them with your GP, dietitian or gastroenterologist.
Oats and oat products
Oats do not contain gluten. They contain a similar protein to gluten 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 ongoing symptoms or any concerns about including gluten free oats in your diet, please speak to your health professional.
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’ and emphasise it in the ingredients list in line food labelling law. 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 due to the processing involved in producing it.
Some vinegars do have barley malt extract added. The amount of barley malt extract used, and the respective amount of gluten, is minimal - therefore the amount of gluten in the end product is extremely small and is well below a level which is safe for people with coeliac disease.
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.