Following a comment from an NFCA community member, the organization looked further into a Greens Plus High Protein Whey Krisp bar, which is labeled as gluten-free despite containing gluten.
Update: Tricia Thompson, MS, RD of Gluten-Free Watchdog released a follow-up to the below post regarding a conversaton with the manufacturer of the Greens Plus High Protein Whey Krisp bar. Click here to read the additional information.
On Wednesday April 16, 2014, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) was contacted on Facebook by a follower inquiring about a food product’s gluten-free status. The below photo of the ingredient label for a Greens Plus High Protein Whey Krisp bar was shared with NFCA through the organization’s Facebook Timeline.
As this product is wrongly labeled gluten-free and unsafe for people with celiac disease, NFCA decided to share an explanation to both alert the community to this unsafe product and to clear up confusion regarding barley and malt ingredients.
NFCA thanks Tricia Thompson, MS, RD of Gluten-Free Watchdog, LLC for her help in explaining why this product does not meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) gluten-free labeling rule.
Despite its name, barley grass and wheat grass MAY be gluten-free, but only if the plants are picked before sprouting and producing seeds. Since some barley grass or wheat grass may have early sprouts, there is still a risk of it containing gluten. The tests used to check for gluten may sometimes either overestimate or underestimate the amount of barley in a food product depending on the specific assay used. Some celiac disease experts recommend that when purchasing a gluten-free product that contains barley grass or wheat grass, you should be sure to talk to the manufacturer about their policy for testing for gluten in both the ingredients and the final product, including the testing protocols used to determine the gluten-free status. As it can be better to err on the side of caution, some celiac disease experts recommend avoiding the grasses of gluten-containing grains altogether. Tricia Thompson, MS, RD has more information about wheat grass and barley grass on her other website Gluten-Free Dietitian.
The sprouted barley malt included in this product should not be used in products labeled gluten-free, even if the final product tests below 20 parts per million (ppm). Barley malt does not meet the criteria outlined by the FDA gluten-free labeling rule and therefore products containing barley malt cannot be labeled gluten-free. While barley malt, malt extract and malt syrup are not specifically called out in the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rule, an FDA representative recently clarified the issue of the use of these ingredients in products labeled gluten-free during the webinar “New Rules for Gluten-Free Labeling: Get the Facts from the Experts,” which was presented by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Medical Nutrition Practice Group. During this webinar, FDA Staff from the Product Evaluation and Labeling Team stated:
“Malt extract and malt syrup are ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains and containing gluten therefore we would consider them as ingredients not processed to remove gluten and they would not be permitted in foods bearing the claim gluten-free.”
To read more about the webinar referenced above, please visit Gluten Free Watchdog. For more information on the FDA ruling, please visit www.celiaccentral.org/fda.
Additionally, the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rule requires that if gluten-free products contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten (such as wheat starch) the final food product must contain less than 20 ppm. In such situations the labeling must indicate that: “The wheat has been processed to allow this food to meet FDA requirements for gluten-free foods.” The Greens Plus High Protein Whey Krisp bar does not include this required accompanying language, a detail that fails to comply with the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rule.
This product should be avoided by people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’) because of the sprouted barley malt, and the wheat warning without specific accompanying language as required by the FDA. This is a great example of why reading ingredient labels is always important.
The FDA gluten-free labeling rule was published in August 2013 and compliance with this rule will go into effect on August 5, 2014.
People who are newly diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may benefit from downloading NFCA’s comprehensive Getting Started: A Guide to Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Diet. This guide can assist with basic ingredient label reading, among many other related topics.