Copyright 2001 by Gluten-Free Living
Reprinted with the permission of the author. Gluten-Free Living is published bimonthly. To join the many celiacs who get information like this article delivered to them six times a year, send a check or money order to GLUTEN-FREE LIVING, POB 105, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, NY. 10706.

GLUTEN-FREE LIVING There was a previous message to the listserv indicating that Gluten-Free Living said dextrin was safe. Apparently the poster came to this conclusion after reading on that, "According to a Sept/Oct 2001 article titled "Know the Facts," probably all dextrins made in the USA are gluten free."

That statement is misleading. Articles in Gluten-Free Living are very carefully researched. It is our policy to present all the information readers would need to make their own decisions. Rather than mislead anyone, I am including the entire portion of the article that deals with dextrin.

The Gluten-Free Living article also deals with maltodextrin and mono and dyglicerides and again, reports that "According to a Sept/Oct 2001 article titled "Know the Facts," probably all mono and diglycerides made in the USA are gluten free."

We were more direct with the glycerides since the evidence permits more directness. Still I would prefer celiacs read the entire article and come to their own conclusion. I am posting the portion on mono and dyglycerides in a separate message.

Here is the material on dextrin.


Dextrin is a trickier ingredient to deal with. The FDA defines dextrin as and incompletely hydrolyzed starch that can be made from starches including corn, potato, arrowroot, rice, tapioca andor wheat. When FDA regulations allow use of a toxic grain in an ingredient, it surely gives pause to most celiacs.

However, a closer look reveals that large US manufacturers of this ingredient do not use wheat in its production. Archer Daniels Midland Co., an international agribusiness with 350 plants worldwide, uses corn for all the dextrin it produces in the United States, according to Leif Solheim,

ADM vice president of research for fermentation. He said he is not aware of any company in the country that makes dextrin from wheat.

National Starch and Chemical, aNew Jersey firm, and Staley Manufacturing Co., an Illinois company, also only use gluten-free starches in their dextrin and all their other products. Solheim noted, however, that wheat starch is more commonly used in Europe than it is here, so imported dextrin might be a concern.

Questions about imported products come up frequently in debates about what is safe for celiacs.So it is interesting to note that under the FDA's Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, imported foods must meet the same standards as those produced in the United States.

In this case, Solheim explained that wheat starch is a byproduct of extracting gluten from wheat. Theoretically, the process of extracting gluten would produce wheat starch that is gluten free. Practically speaking, however,completely extracting gluten is not guaranteed, so wheat starch could contain residual gluten.

This leaves celiacs with a clouded picture regarding dextrin. In the United States, it's an ingredient that can be made from wheat, though that apparently doesn't happen very often, if at all. It's possible that imported dextrin might be made from wheat starch, but without extensive research, we just don' know.

So, what's a celiac to think? You have several options, all the way from avoiding all dextrins through calling all processors of foods that contain dextrin and asking its source, through not questioning dextrin at all. Given what we know, the extreme options (avoiding all dextrins or questioning all dextrins) seem uncalled for. One of the middle options, calling the processor when you can and not questioning dextrins in situations where you can't, would seem to be a safe option to consider.

How you handle dextrin is a decision only you can make. On a positive note, dextrin, which serves as a thickener, prevents caking of sugar in candy and encapsulates flavor oils in mixes, is not found in processed foods nearly as often as the safe maltodextrin.

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This fact sheet has been designed to be a general information resource. However, it is not intended for use in diagnosis, treatment, or any other medical application. Questions should be directed to your personal physician. This information is not warranted and no liability is assumed by the author or any group for the recommendations, information, dietary suggestions, menus, and recipes promulgated. Based upon accepted practices in supplying the source documents, this fact sheet is accurate and complete. Products mentioned or omitted do not constitute endorsement.

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