Recently I was asked about my thoughts on Teeccino brand herbal coffee and whether or not it is gluten free. The ingredients list of the Original Herbal Coffee reads:
Ingredients: roasted carob, organic roasted barley, chicory root, organic dates, almonds, organic chicory, organic figs, natural citrus flavor
As far as I can tell, all Teeccino brand herbal coffees contain barley and product packaging contains the statement, “Brewed Teeccino is gluten-free”.
The company website states the following in their Frequently Asked Questions:
Does Teeccino contain any gluten?
Although Teeccino contains barley, an independent laboratory at the University of Nebraska that specializes in gluten testing found no detectable levels of gluten in Teeccino. Although gluten is present in barley, it most likely does not extract out of the barley using conventional coffee brewing techniques. Gluten is not extracted by boiling water although it can be extracted using ethanol alcohol, which of course is not present in Teeccino.
For gluten sensitive customers, we highly recommend using a paper filter in a drip coffee maker to brew Teeccino so that no particles of Teeccino can leak into the brewed liquid. Ingesting small particles of Teeccino could cause sensitivity to gluten and reusable filters are not as completely reliable as paper filters in preventing particles from going through the filter during brewing.
Things to consider before trying this product…
1. Teeccino herbal coffee as sold to the consumer is not gluten free. Under FDA’s proposed rule for gluten-free labeling, a product can not be labeled gluten free if it contains “an ingredient that is a prohibited grain.” Barley is considered a prohibited grain and is the second ingredient in Teeccino herbal coffee.
2. According to two cereal chemists I consulted, gluten is minimally soluble in water.
3. Brewed Teeccino was tested for gluten at an independent laboratory using the Ridascreen Fast Gliadin assay (Sandwich R5 ELISA) and was found to contain less than 10 parts per million of gluten. I would be more comfortable with the results of the testing if the standard versus the fast gliadin assay was used. The standard version is the validated version and is more accurate. It also has been recommended to me by two cereal chemists that the Competitive R5 ELISA also be used to test this product.
4. The statement that appears on product packaging, “Brewed Teeccino is gluten-free” puts the onus on the consumer to brew the product in a way that limits the chance of coffee grounds making their way into the brewed coffee. Under laboratory conditions, the brewed coffee contained below 10 parts per million of gluten. However, how much gluten might the product contain if brewed using a wire mesh “reusable” filter instead of a paper filter or a coffee press, both of which may allow some coffee grounds particles into the final brew?
I can’t recommend this product to persons with celiac disease and certainly wouldn’t drink it myself. I don’t like the fact that the label states the brewed product is gluten free when it may be the case that only certain brewing techniques (using a paper filter but not a wire mesh filter or coffee press) result in a gluten free product. I also am not completely comfortable with the testing done on the brewed product.
The CEO of Teeccino was invited to send a comment for inclusion in this post; none was received. I was told in a prior email that the company is in the process of developing a barley-free Teeccino for their Boutique flavor line.
UPDATE June 28, 2010
Last week I was contacted by Caroline MacDougall, founder and CEO of Teeccino Herbal Coffee. Brewed Teeccino using a paper filter in a drip coffee maker was recently tested for gluten using both the standard sandwich R5 ELISA and the Competitive R5 ELISA (which tests for protein fragments). All tests came back below the limit of quantification. The LOQ for the sandwich R5 ELISA is 5 ppm gluten; the LOQ for the Competitive R5 ELISA is 1250 ppm gluten peptide.
So it seems that this product when brewed using hot water, a paper filter, and a drip coffee maker is gluten-free. The liquid when brewed according to directions is not intended to contain particles of barley and the gluten protein does not appear to be soluble in hot water under brewed conditions in amounts greater than or equal to 5 parts per million.
However, it remains the case that this product as sold to the consumer is not gluten-free--it contains barley as the second ingredient. The company should make this perfectly clear on the food label by clearly stating, “This product as sold is not gluten-free.” The company also should clearly state on the food label what is stated on the company website,
“For gluten sensitive customers, we highly recommend using a paper filter in a drip coffee maker to brew Teeccino so that no particles of Teeccino can leak into the brewed liquid. Ingesting small particles of Teeccino could cause sensitivity to gluten and reusable filters are not as completely reliable as paper filters in preventing particles from going through the filter during brewing.”
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