Are ingredients added to gluten-free products healthy?

Many people choose to eliminate gluten from their diet as gluten-free foods are often perceived as healthy, yet many of the mass-market products contain unpalatable industrial ingredients. However, Coeliac UK claim there is no evidence that they pose a health risk to consumers.

Gluten free

You may have seen an article published in the Sunday Times on the 4th October 2015 discussing ingredients used in gluten-free products.

The article specifically mentioned a number of ingredients which can be found in some gluten-free products including: hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, xanthan gum, enzymes and calcium propionate.

Coeliac UK advise that food additives are widely used in the food industry to fulfil a range of functions, for example antioxidants to prolong shelf-life and preservatives to stop food going mouldy. Additives cannot be used in food products unless they are safe for consumption. All food additives used in the European Union (EU) must be authorised for use based on a safety assessment, the technological need and checks to ensure that the use of the additive will not mislead consumers.

The ingredients mentioned in the article are not used only in the gluten-free food industry. They are used widely across a number of food categories, ranging from gluten-containing breads, condiments, cooking sauces, fruit juices and confectionery and are approved for use in food. You will find them in some of the most famous brands.

With reference to the use of enzymes the article mentions that traces of ‘potential allergens may remain in the bread’. All gluten-free products must demonstrate that they have less than 20 parts per million of gluten which is a safe level for people with coeliac disease irrespective of the ingredients used.

There is no evidence that they pose a health risk to consumers.