Tricia Thompson, MS, RD is a nutrition consultant, author and speaker specializing in celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. She is the author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide and has a MS degree in nutrition from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts and a BA degree in English Literature from Middlebury College in Vermont.

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Living Gluten-Free

by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, The Gluten-Free Dietitian
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The use of barley malt extract in foods labeled gluten free continues to cause questions. This may be due to differences in food labeling laws among various countries as well as confusion regarding the FDA’s proposed rule for gluten-free labeling.

In the United Kingdom gluten-free foods may contain barley malt extract. According to the website of the UK Coeliac Society, “products containing barley malt extract in low levels that meet the Codex standard can be tolerated by most people with coeliac disease.”

Currently products considered gluten free and included in the Gluten-Free Food and Drink Directory of the UK Coeliac Society must contain less than 100 parts per million of gluten.

It is true that the European Union recently passed a regulation regarding the labeling of food as gluten free. Under that regulation, all food labeled gluten free in the EU must contain no more than 20 parts per million of gluten. However, this legislation will not apply until January 1, 2012.

It also is true that once the stricter gluten-free rule is in place, some products containing barley malt extract may still qualify for a gluten-free label.

In Australia and New Zealand, gluten-free foods may not contain barley malt extract. Food Standards Australia New Zealand states that a gluten-free claim can not be made on a food product if the food contains “cereals containing gluten that have been malted, or their products.”

Once the Food and Drug Administration finalizes their rule regarding the labeling of food as gluten free and this rule takes effect, all food sold in the U.S. regardless of the country of origin will have to comply with U.S. labeling laws.

BUT we don’t have a labeling law yet so there is the possibility that some imported food you find on product shelves labeled glute n free may contain ingredients you generally don’t find in labeled gluten-free products made in the U.S., including barley malt extract.

Under the FDA’s proposed rule for the labeling of foods as gluten free certain ingredients will not be allowed in products labeled gluten free regardless of how much gluten the final food product contains. These ingredients (as listed in the proposed rule) include (but are not limited to) farina, graham, semolina, flour from any of the proposed prohibited grains, hydrolyzed wheat protein, vital gluten, wheat bran, wheat germ, barley malt extract or flavoring, and malt vinegar.

This facet of the proposed labeling law continues to cause quite a bit of confusion. Many people mistakenly believe that the only proposed criteria ...    Continue

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@ 2:37pm ET on January 9, 2011
I admire the valuable information u offer in your message.
I am very impressed to watching your article of gluten free products.
That is very authentic & fantastic.

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