Other Products That Contain Gluten

Gluten may be found in many products, ranging from the obvious (food) to the less obvious, such as medication. This section provides an overview of the categories of products that may contain gluten.

Processed Foods That Contain Gluten

All processed foods can potentially contain wheat, barley, rye, or contaminated oats. Therefore, it is extremely important that you read the ingredient lists of all processed foods to look for sources of these grains. Manufacturers may change the ingredients they use to make a product, so it is important to check labels frequently, if not every time you shop.

Processed foods that contain, or often contain, sources of harmful grain include the following examples:

  • Bouillon cubes
  • Broth (beef, chicken, and vegetable)
  • Brown-rice syrup

* Candy

  • Cold cuts, hot dogs, salami, sausage
  • Communion wafers
  • French fries

* Gravy

  • Imitation fish (for instance, surimi)
  • Licorice
  • Malt vinegar (Note: Whereas malt vinegar, which is made from barley malt, is not gluten free, other vinegars—including distilled vinegar, cider vinegar, wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar—are gluten free.)
  • Malted milk

* Matzo

* Rice mixes

* Sauces

  • Seasoned meat and poultry
  • Seasoned tempeh
  • Seasoned tofu
  • Seasoned tortilla chips or potato chips
  • Self-basting turkey

* Soups

  • Soy milk
  • Soy sauce
  • Tamari sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Vegetables in sauce
  • Vegetarian "burgers" and "hot dogs"

Communion Wafers. In general, Communion wafers are made from wheat. However, low-gluten and gluten-free varieties may be special-ordered. Canon Law dictates that Communion wafers used to celebrate the Eucharist must contain some amount of wheat. The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have developed wheat-starch-based low-gluten Communion wafers that comply with Canon Law. Rice-based Communion wafers are available from Ener-G Foods, Inc.

In My Opinion

Low-gluten Communion wafers made from wheat starch are, I believe, safe for persons with celiac disease to use to celebrate Mass. The wafers made by the Benedictine Sisters reportedly contain 0.01 percent gluten, which is equivalent to 100 parts per million of gluten. While I normally would not endorse the regular consumption of food containing this proportion of gluten, we also need to consider the total amount of food consumed. The smaller of the two breads weighs only 0.04 gram. Each wafer therefore contains only 0.004 milligram of gluten, which is an exceedingly small amount. The weekly use of one very small wafer containing this level of gluten is not going to pose much risk to most people with celiac disease.

Matzo. Matzo is generally made from wheat. However, a rabbi in England has developed an oat-based matzo that is advertised as gluten free.

For more information on Communion wafers and matzo, see the resource lists in Appendix A.

Alcoholic Beverages

If, before your diagnosis with celiac disease, you enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with your pizza, you may find this section helpful. While some alcoholic beverages contain protein from wheat, barley, and rye, most do not. This section explains the various classes of alcohol.

Beer. Beer, lager, ale, porter, stout, and pilsner are fermented alcoholic beverages produced at least in part from malt or a substitute for malt. If these beverages are made from wheat, barley, or rye, they are not gluten free. If these beverages are made using another grain but contain barley malt, they are not gluten free. The good news for many is that several sources of gluten-free beer are now available in the United States. For more information, please see the resources listed in Appendix A.

Other malt-based beverages, such as some wine coolers, hard lemonade, and some flavored hard ciders, contain gluten. True hard cider, however, is gluten free.

Science Class

Unless you are a brewer, vintner, or distiller, you may not realize why distillation is compatible and fermentation in general is not compatible with a gluten-free diet. Alcoholic beverages are either fermented or distilled. Fermented and distilled beverages are made by first converting starch or sugar from a food source (for example, grapes, wheat, or potato) to alcohol, using yeast. With fermented beverages, such as beer, the liquid removed from the mash (the mixture of starting materials) is boiled. If a gluten-containing grain is one of the food sources used to make the mash, the liquid removed from the mash is not gluten free. With distilled beverages, such as vodka, the liquid removed from the mash is not only boiled but also distilled. Distillation is used to increase the alcohol content of the beverage. When the liquid is boiled, the vapor is "captured" and cooled. The resulting liquid is called the distillate. Distillation separates substances that are volatile (meaning they vaporize) from less volatile substances. Protein is not volatile and does not vaporize. Consequently, even if wheat, barley, or rye was used to make a distilled alcoholic beverage, gluten-containing proteins will not be found in the final distillate.

  1. Sake should be gluten free. While sake is a fermented beverage, it is made from polished rice and koji mold. Koji mold is grown on rice that has been "contaminated" with koji spores. While koji mold can be grown on other grains, including those that contain gluten, this is unlikely for a rice-based beverage.
  2. Wine is gluten free. While wine is a fermented beverage, it is made from grapes or other fruit. Fortified wines also are gluten free. These beverages, such as sherry, port, and vermouth, are simply wines with added brandy or another distilled alcohol.
  3. Pure spirits—distilled alcohol from fruit, sugar, or grain—are gluten free. While grain alcohol, such as vodka, gin, and whiskey, may be made from gluten-containing grains, the process of distillation prevents any protein from ending up in the final distillate. Some alcoholic beverages, including rum, may have caramel added as a coloring agent. If you have concerns about caramel (and you probably shouldn't, because it is most likely made from corn), contact the manufacturer. In addition, some distilled alcoholic beverages, such as cordials and liqueurs, may have flavorings added after distillation. These flavorings are likely to be gluten free, but if you have concerns about flavorings, contact the manufacturer.

For information on the labeling of alcoholic beverages, see the website of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and

Explosives, atf.treas.gov. In the website's search engine, enter "alcohol labeling."

Medications and Dietary Supplements

Supplements and medications, whether sold over the counter or by prescription, may contain fillers made from gluten-containing grains. Unfortunately, prescription medications generally do not come with an ingredient list. You should speak with your pharmacist or the manufacturer about whether your medication is gluten free.

Supplements and over-the-counter medications contain a list of ingredients on their label. Labels for over-the-counter medications list both active ingredients (the ones that provide the therapeutic benefits, such as pain relief) and inactive ingredients (those that do not provide any therapeutic benefits, such as colorings and fillers).

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of2004 applies to dietary supplements, medical foods, and infant formula. If one of these products contains protein from wheat, the word wheat must be included on the product's label. If you have any questions about whether a product is gluten free, you should contact the manufacturer.

Several resources are available to help you determine whether your medications are gluten free. To find a list of these, see the resources in Appendix A.

Cosmetics and Toiletries

Products that you apply to your skin and hair may be made from gluten-containing ingredients. However, you do not need to be concerned about products that you do not ingest. If products you apply to your lips (such as lipstick) or use in your mouth (such as toothpaste or mouthwash) are made using gluten-containing ingredients, you might ingest some gluten. Keep in mind that the amount of gluten in many of these products is likely to be very small, and the amount you might ingest even smaller. Nonetheless, it makes sense to use gluten-free versions of these products. Contact the manufacturer to find out if your favorite brands are gluten free.

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