Generally we hear of ‘single’ ingredient spices as being safe for the Celiac and Gluten-Sensitive community, and it is the “mixed” spices (& seasonings) we need to be careful about, primarily due to the anti-caking agent used. Though many mixed spices contain gluten-free anti-caking agents such as calcium carbonate and potato starch, WHEAT can also be used (if wheat is added as an ingredient it should be labeled).
Seems we may need to be concerned with single ingredient spices as well, due to cross-contamination with other gluten-containing grains in the field or possibly later in the manufacturing process.
Recently, I came across a post on Facebook from Trisha Thompson of Gluten Free Watchdog, where she mentions a Canadian study on spices. Here is what Trisha had to say about the study:
“Hi everyone, a report on gluten in ground spices conducted in 2010-2011 from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is in the news, including on Twitter. I will be writing more extensively about this report but I am trying to address this issue preemptively because I don’t want anyone to hit the panic button. This is what may cause panic: The CFIA tested 268 samples. 63 samples (24%) contained detectable levels of gluten ranging from 5 ppm to 20, 000 ppm. BUT… of the 63 spices testing positive for gluten only 5 were domestically processed (including being ground and/or packaged in Canada). The rest were imported. It is true that imported spices in Canada may be from the US but my guess is that Canada and US processers of spices share many of the same quality control practices. Of the 5 domestically processed spices containing detectable gluten, 3 contained greater than or equal to 20 ppm and they were all coriander. At Gluten Free Watchdog we are in the process of testing domestically produced spices that appear to be the most widely used by the gluten-free community. These brands are McCormick, Spice Islands, Simply Organic, Frontier, Morton & Bassett, Spicely, Tone’s and Penzey. We are focusing on the spices that tested at or above 20 ppm in the Canadian survey. These spices (all ground) are clove, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mace, sage, thyme, and white pepper. These products will not be tested all at once. For the next several weeks (starting the week after next) product reports will include at least one spice. Also, please keep in mind that the imported spice (mace) containing 3,000 to 20,000 ppm gluten almost certainly was cut with wheat flour. In other words it was misbranded. Also, keep in mind that a spice containing 20 ppm gluten is very different from a bread, pasta, or cereal containing 20 ppm gluten. Each one ounce serving of a product containing 20 ppm gluten contains 0.57 milligrams of gluten. When you eat bread, etc you are likely eating at least an ounce of product at one sitting. When you use a spice you do not use anywhere close to that amount at one sitting. Please feel free to share this information. I have not decided how testing information will be shared with the wider celiac disease community. If this type of testing information is important to your friends, family, colleagues, and clients please encourage them to subscribe to Gluten Free Watchdog. We will only be able to continue providing this service with the support of the gluten-free community. Kind regards, Tricia”
Stay tuned for the results of Gluten Free Watchdog’s tests on spices … (if interested, you will need to register on their website – for a small fee).
Jane Anderson from About.com also conducted research on some of the popular brands of spices found in the United States, and provided company statements, etc. You can view this informative article HERE.
Please be selective about which brand of spices you choose (even those with a single ingredient), particularly if you are sensitive to trace amounts of gluten.