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  • Scott Adams

    Is Natural Flavoring Gluten-Free and Safe for People with Celiac Disease?

    Scott Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Natural flavors are gluten-free, but they may contain MSG. Here are some other names for natural flavoring.


    It's best to get your smoked flavor the old fashioned way. Image: CC BY 2.0--Southern Foodways Alliance
    Caption: It's best to get your smoked flavor the old fashioned way. Image: CC BY 2.0--Southern Foodways Alliance

    Celiac.com 08/29/2020 (Updated on 09/09/2020) - According to the FDA the term "Natural Flavoring" defines a broad group of things that can be used in foods to give them more flavor:

    • "(3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors, include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in subpart A of part 582 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter."

    For those with celiac disease, natural flavoring is considered to be gluten-free, and if wheat, rye or barley were used to make the natural flavoring it would need to be disclosed on the ingredient label in foods that are labelled "gluten-free." If wheat were used to make natural flavoring it would always need to be disclosed, even on products not labelled gluten-free. For those with serious allergies there are additional concerns about the many ingredients that can be used to make natural flavoring, and because many other foods can be used in combination with these ingredients to make them: "...they consist of one or more of the following, used alone or in combination with flavoring substances and adjuvants generally recognized as safe in food, previously sanctioned for such use, or regulated in any section of this part."



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    "Natural flavors" are a common name for Monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is itself a trade name for sodium hydrogen glutamate. MSG is gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease. MSG appears on Celiac.com's list of Safe Gluten-Free Ingredients, and plenty of people have no problems when eating MSG.

    MSG Can Cause Reactions in Some People

    In some people, MSG can cause adverse reactions, with symptoms including, facial numbness or pressure, heart racing, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, sweating, wheezing or burning sensations. For this reason, many people, both with and without celiac disease, prefer to avoid MSG. 

    Other names for Natural Flavorings include:

    • Artificial Flavoring
    • Artificial Flavors
    • Flavoring
    • Natural Flavoring
    • Natural Flavors
    • Natural Smoke Flavor

    In addition to "natural flavors," other names for MSG include:

    • Flavoring
    • Natural Flavor
    • Natural Flavorings
    • Natural Beef Flavor
    • Natural Chicken Flavor
    • Natural Beef Flavor
    • Chicken Flavoring
    • Seasoning
    • Spices
    • Enzymes 

    Source:

    Edited by Scott Adams

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    Guest Truth in Labeling

    Posted

    Here’s a list of the ingredients that contain the manufacture free glutamate that is the toxic ingredient in MSG: https://www.truthinlabeling.org/names.html.  I don’t know who told you otherwise, but MSG isn’t safe for anyone.  The Truth in Labeling Campaign webpage tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about MSG (www.truthinlabeling.org).

     

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    I'm having a tough time buying your story that "Natural Flavors" is simply secret code for MSG.  I've been blending tea since 1996, and many of the products available in the wholesale tea market contain "natural flavors", added in addition to things that might signal the desired flavor to the customer.  Examples: Apricot Oolong Tea usually contains no apricots and Strawberry Black Tea contains no actual strawberries. But look at the ingredient list and you'll invariably find natural and/or artificial flavors. 

    And I'm pretty confident in saying that they're not using MSG to somehow manifest the impression of apricot or strawberry. No, these are chemical compounds based on chemistry and culinary science. The fact that companies are permitted keep these ingredients secret is infuriating, because people deserve to know what they're putting in their bodies.  Liquor industry, same thing!  You think there's anything actually orange in that Curaçao cordial--blue or otherwise? 

    Where things get dicey is when manufacturers, such as soup companies, use this catch-all term to cloak their ingredients. And since items like barley, rye and oats are not included in the FDA mandatory allergen declarations, they can slide those under the radar as "proprietary ingredients".  

    Your article gives me zero confidence in what you're claiming.  "Natural flavors", etc. cannot possibly be limited to MSG. 

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    13 hours ago, Scott Adams said:

    We updated this to say “may contain“ because they don’t necessarily contain msg.

    And that... with a single word... is a different article entirely.  Thank you for clarifying and fixing! 

    I try really hard not to come across as confrontational, but it's "in me" to challenge what I see as incoherent.  

     

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    I am confused about: "For those with celiac disease, natural flavoring is considered to be gluten-free, and if wheat, rye or barley were used to make the natural flavoring it would need to be disclosed on the ingredient label in foods that are labelled "gluten-free." If wheat were used to make natural flavoring it would always need to be disclosed, even on products not labelled gluten-free."  The first part of the first sentence says natural flavoring is gluten-free. Then the second half implies that it is possible that rye or barley could be used to make the natural flavoring and therefore would not need to be disclosed on a typical food label that is not making any special claims. Both of those cannot be true. 

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    See this post:

    "While "natural flavors" can contain gluten, they very rarely actually do. The most likely source would be barley malt, and that is a relatively expensive ingredient, so it is usually explicitly declared as "malt flavor."

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    17 hours ago, Guest Addams K said:

    I am confused about: "For those with celiac disease, natural flavoring is considered to be gluten-free, and if wheat, rye or barley were used to make the natural flavoring it would need to be disclosed on the ingredient label in foods that are labelled "gluten-free." If wheat were used to make natural flavoring it would always need to be disclosed, even on products not labelled gluten-free."  The first part of the first sentence says natural flavoring is gluten-free. Then the second half implies that it is possible that rye or barley could be used to make the natural flavoring and therefore would not need to be disclosed on a typical food label that is not making any special claims. Both of those cannot be true. 

    I missed this nuance the first time as well.   The two sentences are "Apples and Crabapples": they overlap, but are really talking about different things. 

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  • About Me

    Scott Adams was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. In 1995 he launched the site that later became Celiac.com to help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives.  He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of the (formerly paper) newsletter Journal of Gluten Sensitivity. In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. Celiac.com does not sell any products, and is 100% advertiser supported.


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