What Is Gluten Free Wheat Starch and is it Coeliac Safe?


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If you have coeliac disease, the chances are by now you’ve come across an ingredients list with gluten free wheat starch in it. And you’re probably wondering – what is gluten free wheat starch and how on earth is it gluten free when it contains WHEAT!?

Learning how to start a gluten free diet can be very confusing.

When you’re first diagnosed with coeliac disease you are told to avoid BROWS:

  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Oats
  • Wheat
  • Spelt

So it’s only naturally to feel completely confused when you pick up a product labelled as gluten free to see the words ‘wheat’ glaring at you from the ingredients list.

But don’t panic! I’m here to explain why and what gluten free wheat starch is, whether it’s safe to eat on a gluten free diet, and if you can eat it with coeliac disease.

What is gluten free wheat starch?

Gluten free wheat starch – often labelled as codex wheat starch – is a product of wheat.

BUT it is wheat starch which is specially manufactured to be gluten free.

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

This means it can be legally classed as gluten free and is safe for a gluten free diet.

This level (20 parts per million) is what the law states is suitable for consumption by people with coeliac disease.

So if you see a product using codex wheat starch or gluten free wheat starch, it is safe for people with coeliac disease to consume, according to UK and EU law.

Is wheat starch gluten free?

Yes – but only gluten free wheat starch or codex gluten free wheat starch is suitable for a gluten free diet.

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 the 20ppm threshold required by law.

However, standard wheat starch is NOT gluten free – so it is only considered to be safe if the specific words ‘gluten free’ appear in the ingredients list.

Is wheat starch safe for coeliacs?

Yes – gluten free wheat starch is considered safe for a gluten free diet and therefore safe for people with coeliac disease to consume.

This is because the levels of gluten in the product are tested to below 20ppm.

However this only applies to gluten free wheat starch in free from products. Normal wheat starch is not gluten free.

Why is gluten free wheat starch in bold in ingredients?

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

Gluten free wheat starch is highlighted because it contains wheat, and wheat is an allergen.

Under EU law, the top 14 allergens must be highlighted in bold on ingredients lists – and this includes wheat and barley, or any cereals which contain gluten.

Gluten free wheat starch is NOT safe for anyone who has a wheat allergy or intolerance. But is fine for those with coeliac disease.

(You may have noticed you never actually see ‘gluten’ on an ingredients list – it is always ‘wheat’, ‘barley’, ‘rye’, etc. This is why.)

The difference between coeliac and wheat allergy

When you have coeliac disease, eating gluten triggers and autoimmune response. It is not an allergy or an intolerance.

A wheat allergy is a reaction to wheat. They are two completely 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 different.

Why do gluten free products contain wheat starch?

A lot of manufacturers like to use codex gluten free wheat starch 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, such as the Caputo Fioreglut Gluten free Flour, or Juvela’s Gluten Free White Mix.

It helps to make a more pliable dough and often products made using these flours are more similar to wheat-based products in their taste and texture.

The take home on gluten free wheat starch:

  • Gluten Free Wheat Starch IS suitable for a gluten free diet.
  • It IS NOT suitable for anyone with a wheat allergy.
  • It has to be labelled in bold due to EU labelling laws as wheat is an allergen.
  • If you have coeliac disease, gluten free wheat starch is safe to consume.



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