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AboutTricia 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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I frequently am asked about the gluten-free status of ingredients, including natural flavor, smoke flavoring, extracts containing alcohol, and caramel.
According to the Food and Drug Administration the terms natural flavor, natural flavoring” or flavoring on a food label, means "the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."
In other words, natural flavor, natural flavoring, and flavoring may be derived from gluten-containing grains. BUT unless you see the words wheat, barley, rye, or malt on the label of food product containing natural flavor, the natural flavor probably does not contain protein from these sources.
Why? Under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act if an ingredient in an FDA-regulated food product contains protein from wheat, the word "wheat" must be included on the food label either in the ingredients list or Contains statement.
Even though natural flavoring is one of those ingredients (along with coloring and spice) that may be listed collectively, wheat protein will not be hidden. Barley is used in flavorings, such as malt flavoring and some smoke flavoring (see below) but these ingredients generally are declared in the ingredients list.
Rye also could be used in a flavoring but probably will be listed as rye flavoring (which is generally made from rye flour) in the ingredients list or used in a food product you wouldn’t eat anyway, such as a bread product. The United States Department of Agriculture (regulates meat products, poultry products, and egg products) does not allow protein containing ingredients to be hidden under the collective ingredient name of natural flavor. Rather, protein containing ingredients must be included in the ingredient list by their common or usual name.
This flavoring is derived from burning various woods, including hickory and mesquite. Barley malt flour may be used as a carrier for the captured “smoke.” Some manufacturers list the sub-ingredients ... Continue
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