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Are Spices Gluten Free?

In the last year this question has become more and more common, so I thought that it was time that I addressed it. As an increasing amount of people cut gluten from their diets for health or allergy reasons, many customers and potential customers aren’t sure if spices and seasoning blends contain gluten.

What is Gluten?

Glutens are proteins found in wheat, barley, malts, rye and triticale. Glutens are also commonly found in food additives such as flavorings, stabilizers and thickening agents. Foods that are processed with or through the same machines that process wheat, may contain various amounts of wheat due to cross-contamination. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration classifies gluten as "generally recognized as safe" or GRAS, so gluten may not even be listed on product ingredients. The FDA classifies foods that contain less than or equal to 20 ppm (parts per million) to be gluten-free and at this time there is no law or regulation that defines the rules for labeling foods as 'gluten-free'. Those with Celiac must become masters at reading labels and understanding ingredients in order to maintain a strict gluten-free diet. Many products that are listed as gluten free have not been enriched or fortified such nutrients as fiber, folate and iron as traditional breads and cereals have been during much of the last century. So for those on a Gluten-free diet should take extra care to add these nutrients into their diets through other food sources. Many different spices are added to processed foods for flavorings and many commercial seasoning blends also have anti-caking agents added. Anti-caking agents are usually calcium silicate, silicon dioxide and sodium aluminum silica (sounds positively scrumptious) but you won’t generally find wheat starch or wheat flour used as anti-caking agents. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2006, and this law requires manufacturers to clearly identify on their labels if a food product has any ingredients that contain protein derived from any of the eight major allergenic foods and food groups: Crustacean shellfish, eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts or wheat. These eight foods and food groups are responsible for 90 percent of all food allergies. For seasoning blends sold in the US if any wheat flour or wheat starch is used it must be listed as seasoning “wheat flour or wheat starch” and at the end of the ingredient list you ’' see “Contains Wheat”. Bottom line: Spices are inherently gluten-free.

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