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.
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:
- My coeliac disease FAQs
- Eight reasons to stay positive about gluten free life
- What is a 'coeliac check-up' and do I need one?