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 necessary in the U.S. for labeling a food product gluten free is that it contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
If you are among the confused (and it is very easy to be confused by this), please take the time to read the following section pertaining to the proposed definition of “gluten-free” taken directly from the proposed rule:
Definition of the Term 'Gluten-Free'
FDA proposes in Sec. 101.91(a)(3) to define the claim "gluten-free" to mean that a food bearing the claim in its labeling does not contain any of the following: (1) An ingredient that is a prohibited grain; (2) an ingredient that is derived from a prohibited grain and that has not been processed to remove gluten; (3) an ingredient that is derived from a prohibited grain and that has been processed to remove gluten, if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 ppm or more gluten in the food (i.e., 20 micrograms or more gluten per gram of food); or (4) 20 ppm or more gluten.
Examples of a prohibited grain include, but are not limited to, barley, common wheat, durum wheat, einkorn wheat, emmer wheat, kamut, rye, spelt wheat, and triticale. Examples of ingredients that are derived from a prohibited grain and that have not been processed to remove gluten include, but are not limited to: farina, flour made from any of the proposed prohibited grains, graham, and semolina; hydrolyzed wheat protein, vital gluten, wheat bran, and wheat germ; and barley malt extract or flavoring and malt vinegar. Because these ingredients are derived from a prohibited grain and have not been processed to remove gluten, they are presumed to contain gluten.
Examples of ingredients that are or are sometimes derived from a prohibited grain and processed to remove gluten include, but are not limited to: food starch -- modified (modified food starch); and wheat starch. Although these ingredients have been processed to remove gluten, FDA recognizes that there may be different methods of deriving these ingredients, and that some methods may remove less gluten than others. Therefore, FDA proposes to prohibit a food that contains one of these ingredients from bearing a gluten-free labeling claim if the use of the ingredient results in the presence of 20 ppm or more gluten in the food.”
To read the FDA’s entire proposed rule on gluten-free labeling of foods, click here.
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