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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 first and only time I ate Marmite was in high school. I’ve never had the desire to eat it again. But many people love Marmite. If you are one of these people, and you have celiac disease, you should know that this product may not be gluten free (as we define gluten-free in the United States).

What exactly is Marmite?
Marmite is a yeast extract spread that is wildly popular in the United Kingdom. According to the Marmite website (marmite.com), this spread is “made from brewer’s yeast that’s been used to ferment sugars into alcohol.” The ingredients list of Marmite reads, “Yeast Extract, Salt, Vegetable Extract, Niacin, Thiamin, Spice Extracts (Contains Celery), Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12.”

Why assess Marmite for gluten?
Marmite was assessed for gluten contamination as part of preliminary testing for a planned larger study on yeast extract/autolyzed yeast extract derived from brewer’s yeast. Brewer’s yeast may be a by-product of the beer brewing process and as such may be contaminated with malt and grain. In the US, individuals with celiac disease are advised to avoid food products containing brewer’s yeast as an ingredient.

Test results
An unopened 125 g container of Marmite manufactured by Unilever in the UK was sent to the Food Allergen Research and Resource Program at the University of Nebraska (farrp.org). The product was tested in duplicate using both the standard R5 sandwich ELISA and the competitive R5 ELISA. The results are as follows:

Sandwich R5 ELISA
Extraction One: 28 ppm gluten
Extraction Two: 31 ppm gluten

Lower limit of quantification for this assay is 5 ppm gluten

Competitive R5 ELISA
Extraction One: 3,700 ppm gluten peptide
Extraction Two: 3,400 ppm gluten peptide

Lower limit of quantification for this assay is 1,250 ppm gluten peptide

Please note that 1 ppm gluten peptide is NOT equivalent to 1 ppm gluten. It is not easy to evaluate peptide concentration in terms of ppm gluten. According to R-Biopharm, the manufacturer of the competitive R5 ELISA,"The degree of hydrolisation is variable in the analysed food matrices and therefore smaller and bigger fragments in different amounts and forms are occuring." What we can conclude from the results of the competitive assay, is that Marmite contains peptide fragments that are potentially problematic for individuals with celiac disease.

Very important caveat: Only 1 container of Marmite was tested. This container may not be representative of the general gluten content of Marmite.

Marmite in the United Kingdom
Marmite is manufactured by Unilever in the UK. Marmite is not labeled gluten free (at least the jars I have). Unilever includes Marmite in a listing of products with the heading, “The products on the below list DO NOT contain Gluten or products thereof (wheat, rye, barley oats) in flavour or as ingredient.”

Historically, Marmite has been included in the Food and Drink Directory of Coeliac UK (http://www.coeliac.org.uk/node/156). In email correspondence with representatives from Coeliac UK, I was advised that for the 2009 version of the directory, manufacturers had to sign a declaration that products contained less than 100 ppm gluten. Prior to 2009, products had to contain less than 200 ppm gluten.

The 2010 directory has two sections. To be listed in the first section, foods must meet the gluten-free labeling law introduced in the UK in 2009. Products in this section contain less than 20 ppm gluten as verified through testing.

To be listed in the second section, foods must meet 2005 UK Allergen Labeling laws. Products in this section do not include any ingredients that contain gluten. Manufacturers are not required to submit gluten test results for products to be included in this section. Marmite is listed in the second section.

According to the Website of Coeliac UK, “All foods listed in the Food and Drink Directory ...    Continue

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@ 1:14am ET on March 4, 2010 In the US, how would we know if a product contains Brewer's Yeast? Must we be concerned with any "yeast extract" ingredient?

Thanks!

Al
@ 10:38am ET on March 4, 2010 Hi Al,

Brewer's yeast is sometimes used as an ingredient in a food product and labeled as brewer's yeast. Yeast extract/autolyzed yeast extract may be derived from brewer's yeast. As is the case with Marmite you would have no way of knowing by reading the ingredient list that the yeast extract was derived from brewer's yeast. BUT, at this point in time it is unknown 1) how often yeast extract/autolyzed yeast extract is derived from brewer's yeast and 2) whether or not the use of yeast extract/autolyzed yeast extract in a food product would result in the product containing 20 ppm or more gluten. Keep in mind that the first ingredient in Marmite is yeast extract. Most of the time yeast extract appears as one of the last ingredients in a food product.

I am hoping to conduct some thorough research in this area soon.

Tricis
@ 12:02am ET on March 8, 2010 Interesting. Looking forward to seeing the results of your research.

Thanks Tricia!

Al
@ 4:45pm ET on June 13, 2013 Hi there,

I am in my (very early) 60s and only diagnosed about a month ago as having celiac's disease. Have had very low iron levels most of my adult life. I am still working and often feel really exhausted, as well having a lack of appetite and feeling the cold. Am hoping that an iron infusion next week will help.

I live in Austria and it is so hard to find details on products, where zhe list of ingredients is so small and they often don't give any percentage.

I am meeting a dietician in the next week or two but have been trying to "manage" what I eat (sometimes at work at a university canteen).

Bread and toast are a huge problem, the bakeries are slow to fill this niche in the market. I love marmite on toast and don't have any side effects, so guess I can continue having it in moderation on a slice of toast for breakfast? The toast I think has the least wheat content seems to be mostly made from rye, but I can't be sure. Have tried contacting the companies, some say they're sorry, they don't have anything and others say they don't want to give info on ingredients because of product competitiion ... Why dosn't the EU do something useful for a change to regulate this, I wonder?

It is, however, quite hard to know what to make in the evenings. My kids have left home and I I often find I have little energy for cooking something. Any ideas for quick and healthy supper for a working lady? I will probably be working for another 3 years.

My GP never suspected celiac's, as my vit b levels were always fine. I looked for a good specialist to get to the bottom of the problem and he suggested getting a gastroscopy done, and that was what came out ...
Many thanks for any suggestions
Liz632
@ 5:39pm ET on June 13, 2013 Hi Liz,

It is very important that you see a dietitian specializing in celiac disease as soon as possible. I am not familiar with specially-made gluten-free foods on the market in Austria. While I can not advise you directly, it is exceedingly important that individuals with celiac disease stop eating foods containing protein from the grains wheat, barley, and rye--this includes Marmite and rye bread. There are many foods that are naturally gluten-free includng fresh fruits and vegetables, plain red meat, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, milk, plain yogurt, most cheese, and several grains, including brown rice.

This post is provided for informational purposes only. It is not medical care and should not be interpreted as medical care.

Tricia Thompson, MS, RD
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