Gluten in natural or artificial flavors is a significant risk. Flavors aren’t automatically contaminated, but they could contain gluten.
It seems surprising, even wrong, that artificial flavors, and especially natural flavors would contain wheat or gluten!
First of all, it is important to know that some flavors can have gluten in them, not all.
Secondly, it is very important to understand that gluten-containing flavors may not be listed in the ingredients.
Even if you don’t complete this article, an important point to remember if you have a food intolerance to gluten, is that if you see flavors of any sort listed in the ingredients, then call the manufacturer and ask them if their product contains gluten.
It is unlikely that a manufacturer will tell you exactly what is contained in their product, especially when it comes to flavors. But if you ask them specifically to check if there is, or is not gluten in their product, then you should get a definitive answer.
For example, Mo, who commented under the Wheat, Gluten and Asthma post, found “Natural Flavorings” listed in the ingredients for Hunts Ketchup. Although neither wheat nor gluten is listed in the ingredients, gluten is contained in the flavorings.
Granted, the quantity is likely to be tiny. As always, if you are celiac, avoid all possible gluten. If you have a gluten allergy, use your discretion, it all depends on how sensitive you are, and to what degree you can live with the symptoms.
Why Natural and Artificial Flavors May Mean Gluten
According to childrenshospital.org, gluten may be added to flavors for two reasons.
One reason is that the flavor may be enhanced using hydrolyzed protein. Hydrolyzed protein could be made from any number of plant ingredients. One possibility is wheat. I suppose rye, oats or barley could also be used. These details may be more technical than the manufacturer’s rep can get into, but at least you understand one reason for gluten in flavors.
Another reason that flavor may contain gluten is that barley malt, barley extract, or barley syrup may be added. This is easily recognized when explicitly listed in the list of ingredients, but if part of a flavor component, it may not be listed.
Following a strict gluten-free diet is a chore, but well worth the results. If you are just starting on a gluten-free diet, you probably have bigger sources of gluten to worry about, but do watch out for flavor listed in the ingredients. If you see flavors listed, call the manufacture to determine if the food is free of gluten, unless the food is explicitly labeled “gluten free”.