What the hell is gluten free wheat starch? And is it safe for coeliacs?

What is gluten free wheat starch

Last year Cadbury’s brought out a new gluten free Rocky Road Mud Cake and it’s got the world asking, what the hell is gluten free wheat starch!?

How can wheat starch be gluten free? And is gluten free wheat starch safe for coeliacs?  

As so many people were confused by this baffling ingredient, which sounds like it shouldn’t be gluten free, I thought I’d lay it out all for you, right here, right now.

What is gluten free wheat starch?

Gluten free wheat starch – often labelled as codex wheat starch – is a product of wheat, but it is specially manufactured wheat starch.

In essence, the wheat starch is washed to that the level of gluten is within the Codex standard of 20 parts per million (ppm).

This means it can be classed as gluten free. This level (20 parts per million) is what the law states is suitable for consumption by people with coeliac disease.



So why use gluten free wheat starch?

A lot of manufacturers like to use it, because it helps the product to act in a more ‘normal’ way.

According to Coeliac UK, it was first used as a basis to substitute ingredients like flour and improve the texture of products. This is why it has become popular in many gluten free products.

What is gluten free wheat starch

So is wheat starch gluten free?

Yes. Where it is marked specifically as gluten free wheat starch, it is gluten free and Coeliac UK confirms this is safe for people with coeliac disease to consume. This is because gluten free wheat starch is below 20ppm.

Then why does it appear in bold on ingredients lists?

Most people who avoid gluten will be used to scanning ingredients lists for allergens, which are highlighted in bold.

This, I think, is where the confusion lies. Gluten free wheat starch is highlighted because it contains wheat, and wheat is an allergen.

So gluten free wheat starch is not safe for anyone who has a wheat allergy or intolerance, but is fine for those only avoiding gluten.

This is because when you have coeliac disease, this is an autoimmune response to the gluten.

A wheat allergy is a reaction to wheat, so they are two different things.

Someone with a wheat allergy could consume a wheat free bread made from something like rye, but this would not be gluten free, because rye contains gluten.

In the same way someone with coeliac disease could consume gluten free wheat starch, even though it contains wheat. It’s easy to get them muddled, but they are slightly different.

What sort of products contain gluten free wheat starch?

You’ll find gluten free wheat starch in a lot of baked goods. For example, prescription-brand Juvela use gluten free wheat starch in their gluten free bread.

And of course, it’s here in the Cadbury’s gluten free mud cake too!

If you’ve got more questions about coeliac disease, why not also join my new Gluten Free Blogger Facebook Group and share your own gluten free tips? Come on over and say hello, it’s a lovely group with some amazing people!

Got more questions about gluten free life?

If you’re new to coeliac disease or a gluten free diet, then these other posts might be helpful:

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Gluten free wheat starch - is it safe for coeliacs? www.theglutenfreeblogger.com



  1. Neal
    March 16, 2018 / 22:39

    Unusual that they have gone with wheat starch. What an odd thing to do isn’t it ? As it’s far from an inclusive ingredient. Better choice would be corn flour.
    I get terrible bloating from It . Never used to. So I cut it out .

  2. March 19, 2018 / 21:50

    Sadly, my daughter (who is coeliac and not allergic) cannot eat GF wheat starch and has a definable reaction to it…. so i REALLY hope this is NOT the way that gluten free food is going!

  3. Laura Isaac
    May 16, 2018 / 23:35

    I’m allergic to wheat and anaphaltic to soya. It’s bad enough that near anything sweet or chocolaty that’s gluten free contains soya even though it’s the third most common allergy but then M&S and Tesco changed all their gluten free range to using soya flour…..and now wheat starch…..i question why when sunflower lethicin can be used as an emulsifier in chocolate and corn flour can be used in other products both of which are cheaper.
    I truly hope this isn’t going to become a trend as I carry epipens and already meticulously svan ingredients. If something is gluten free many will automatically think it’s save for both and could be dangerous

    Thankfully I rarely eat processed foods or beige goods haha but sometimes on the occasion I want a dessert and don’t want to bake this always is an issue. Olease manufacturers think and research as if you had a allergy that could seriously affect you

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