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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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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?

IMHO

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.”



Follow me on Twitter where I will be posting weekly links to my Living Gluten-Free column www.twitter.com/triciathompson
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@ 11:44pm ET on February 9, 2010
I use a french press, and often find grounds in my coffee...pretty scary.


@ 8:30am ET on February 12, 2010
Another excellent investigative piece.
Now if we could just find out what is delaying the FDA setting the gf standard.


@ 1:02am ET on May 3, 2010
Who really is a different solution to the wind does not affect human health, but can lose weight, this is a good advice how ah!
http://ggmsn.wordpress.com


@ 10:18am ET on June 29, 2010
THANK YOU for this timely article and work. I'd just given up coffee and decaf coffee, and was looking at trying this product!

I have another product I bought but then am having second thoughts about. Could you tell me whether Garden of Life's Raw Meal Replacement (states gf) would be safe and what type of testing they do? I have called them and they said it tests gf, but I don't understand testing. I asked the rep to call me back with what type of test they use, but they never did. It has "oat, barley and wheat grasses."

Your article shows me the importance of testing, so I'm glad I didn't try the Raw Meal Replacement - cause, "When in doubt, do without!"

Raw Meal Replacement Ingredients Label: http://bit.ly/aeyEkK

Product Info page: http://bit.ly/ckMbB2

Thank you again.


@ 4:14pm ET on June 29, 2010
I found another product which has "natural grain dextrin." Safe?

(Hammer sports gel): http://bit.ly/dBTqBX


@ 4:26pm ET on June 29, 2010
Hi,

Glad you found the article helpful. I am not familiar with Garden of Life and the gluten testing they conduct on their products. In theory wheat grass and barley grass should not contain gluten protein. However, without testing there is no way of knowing whether some wheat or barley seed ended up in the juice. This company should consider testing their products using both the standard (not fast) sandwich R5 ELISA and the competitive R5 ELISA.

Hope this helps!

Tricia


@ 4:36pm ET on June 29, 2010
Hi again,

Under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act if an ingredient in a packaged food product (including supplements) regulated by the Food and Drug Administration contains protein from wheat, the word "wheat" must be included on the food label either in the ingredients list or "Contains" statement. If the word wheat is not included on a product label, ingredients in the product do not contain wheat protein.

Hope that helps too!

Tricia


@ 1:53am ET on May 7, 2011
I love this post. thank for sharing such helpful information.

Regards
Herbalife24
http://www.herbaldiet.com/


@ 3:12pm ET on December 12, 2014
Great thorough investigation. Luckily, Teeccino now offers a CERTIFIED GF line of flavors made with organic Dandelion Root and NO BARLEY!

http://teeccino.com/category/73/Barley-Free-Dandelion-Flavors.html

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