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Are “Gluten-Free” Condiments the Culprit?

Do you or a loved one have repeated “gluten-related” digestive symptoms but you don’t understand how it can be happening?…

… Do you ever wonder if those supposedly “gluten-free” condiments aren’t really so gluten-free?

Kikkoman Soy Sauce Gluten-Free 8.5 oz

A Typical Condiment
Kikkoman Soy Sauce Gluten-Free 8.5 oz.

The truth is that gluten-intolerant individuals who are very careful about strictly staying on their gluten-free diet will sometimes have totally baffling digestive, gluten-like reactions.  I would like to tell you a little bit about something that could be causing those perplexing symptoms; remember, there are many serious, possibly life-threatening diseases that may cause your symptoms so if you don’t know for sure what you are experiencing, see your duly licensed, qualified physician for evaluation and subsequent diagnosis and treatment…

Condiments and Gluten Intolerance

… As I looked around the Internet recently I noticed articles and comments about individuals becoming ill because they used condiments which were not gluten-free. I understand from first-hand experience how very easy it is to accidentally contaminate your food with condiments such as Worcestershire sauce, bouillon cubes and things like this. I’ve done it myself… I don’t know how many times.

And, just so we are all on the same page, here’s what Wikipedia says about what a condiment is:

“A condiment is an edible substance, (such as a simple sauce) which is used to be added to some foods to impart a particular flavor, enhance its flavor,[1] or in some cultures, to complement the dish. The term originally described pickled or preserved foods, but has shifted meaning over time.[2] Many condiments are available packaged in single-serving sachets (packets), like mustard or ketchup, particularly when supplied with take-out or fast-food meals. Condiments are usually applied by the diner. Condiments are sometimes added prior to serving, for example a sandwich made with ketchup or mustard. Some condiments are used during cooking to add flavor or texture to the food; barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, marmite are examples.”

 Definition courtesy of Wikipedia, “Condiment” Article


I’d like to emphasize that it is very easy to become ill if you have digestive type symptoms of a disease that causes gluten intolerance… And, no matter what the cause, it’s still your responsibility as a gluten-intolerance sufferer to make sure that the foods that you eat are, in fact, gluten-free.

How To Find Out If Your Food Is Gluten-Free

In order to meet that responsibility, I highly recommend that you start a list of foods that you know are gluten-free.  Include safe foods such as raw veggies as well as processed/manufactured foods like Worcestershire sauce. The reason for including raw foods in the list is that many fresh vegetables, especially in the U.S., are sold now sold in wrappers… Especially in upscale supermarkets. Those wrappings may contain gluten-contaminated coatings, inks, or other materials which will cross contaminate your raw foods.

To help you get started, I’ve made a small list of condiment and similar-type things such as Worcestershire sauce and other items that it’s easy to accidentally get a “glutenized” brand. You should be developing your own list such as the one I’m about to give you.  In my opinion, the easiest way to do that is to contact the manufacturer directly to find out if the item is actually gluten-free. Always be sure to ask about cross-contamination as well as packaging materials.


Sample Safe Product Source List
Sometimes Contaminated Item USUALLY, Safe Gluten-Free Brand Items
Worcestershire Sauce Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
Chicken or Beef Stock Pacific Natural Foods
Salsa Pace Picante Sauce
Soy Sauce San-J, Kikkoman
Bouillon cubes * Please contact the producer/processor/manufacturer


As a sufferer of or a caregiver for an individual with a disease that causes gluten intolerance you really do need to learn how to contact product producers/processors/manufacturers.  It is vital for your health and well-being.

I’m actually extremely shy and I was initially very reluctant to make a call… Especially since I needed to be willing to ask probing questions and to insist on complete, on-target answers.  So, when I could, I used e-mail.

In a way, e-mail is is better because you then have an electronic “written” record of their answer to your inquiry.  However, if you use e-mail, you are at the producer/processor/manufacturer’s mercy as to “if and when” they will respond to your e-mail and how much they will actually tell you about their internal “contamination situation.” Also, the “e-mail conversation” process can be slow, bulky and off-target as far at the answers go.

So, at some point, most gluten-free individuals or their caregivers will need to learn how to contact those companies directly via telephone.  I go into detail about how to contact producers/processors/manufacturers in my third book… “Eating and Living a Gluten-Free Diet… The Official Guide (2012-2013).”

And, please, check out my Safe Foods Master Lists which are free on this website. That said, I’d like to share more about “cross-contamination” which is a very real, very serious problem for individuals who have diseases which cause gluten-intolerance…

Kikkoman Soy Sauce Gluten-Free 8.5 oz.

GoNaturally Organic Honey Gluten Free Hard Candies, 3.5-Ounce Bags (Pack of 6)

Walden Farms Caramel (1 bottle) SYRUP, Sugar Free, Calorie Free, Fat Free, Carb Free, Gluten Free (12 oz bottle)

Cross-Contamination of Normally Gluten-Free Foods

… Cross-contamination often occurs when a product that is supposed to be gluten-free is stored in a storage area that is also used to store “gluten-y” products.  Or, when a produced/processed/manufactured product is prepared on an assembly line that is not cleaned properly between production runs.

There are many other reasons that can cause cross-contamination to occur. Sometimes it can be as subtle as the coating on the wrapper the product is sold in or the ink that is used to print the information on the wrapper about the product that is contained in it.

And, here’s a generally unknown and extremely subtle contaminant of otherwise gluten-free food… Modified food starch.

Modified Food Starch and Cross-Contamination of Gluten-Free Foods

Modified food starch has a variety of uses in produced/processed/manufactured food products. And, like the name implies, it is starch. Starch comes from many different food sources. It is normally made from either a grain or a starch-rich root crop such as potatoes.

Unfortunately for individuals who are gluten intolerant, it is usually (actually, almost always) made from grains. And, the grains they use to make modified food starch frequently contain gluten. Grains are desirable for the production of modified food starch because of ready availability and ease of handling. Plus, they can be quite inexpensive (depending upon the commodity markets, of course).

If the modified food starch is made in North America it is usually gluten-free. The reason for this is that in North America, in the United States particularly, rice or corn is usually used to produce the modified food starch. Rice and corn are both naturally gluten-free unless they have been cross contaminated due to storage or other factors.

However, in other parts of the world this may not be the case. In those regions of our planet, it is often common practice to use whatever grain or root crop is available in that region at a commercially profitable price. And, the root crop starch source is, of course, susceptible to cross-contamination.

How To Get More Information

You can find out more about cross-contamination, other items related to determining if your food supply is gluten-free, and how to contact producers/manufacturers directly in my third book… “Eating and Living a Gluten-Free Diet… The Official Guide (2012-2013).”