Once you think you have your gluten-free game down, it’s not uncommon to reference the rule book occasionally because sneaky gluten-free vernacular can catch you off guard. Classic examples are foods that contain the word “malt.” For example, ingredients such as malt, malt vinegar, malt syrup, malt flavoring, barley malt (both flavoring and extract), and malted milk contain gluten, because malt is a derived ingredient of barley. It’s easy to assume that if you know malt is derived from barley, a gluten-grain, any ingredient that contains the word “malt” automatically contains gluten. But this is not necessarily the case.
One example is maltodextrin, a highly processed and purified ingredient that has a variety of uses in manufacturing food products. But maltodextrin can be derived from several different gluten-free ingredients that include corn, potato, or rice. It may also be derived from wheat. So, is maltodextrin gluten-free? North America typically makes maltodextrin from gluten-free starches, though it’s commonly made from wheat in Europe. If you find maltodextrin on the ingredient list of an imported food from Europe, is it safe for you to eat? Scientific evidence sheds some light. Maltodextrin is so highly processed and purified that even the most scientifically sensitive and credible tests cannot detect gluten in maltodextrin. Yet, it’s still recommended to be cautious with maltodextrin made overseas. In the United States, if wheat is used to make maltodextrin, the FDA requires the ingredient to be labeled “wheat maltodextrin.”