Vinegar for a GF diet: Malt vs. Distilled

I’ve just learned about a sneaky new source of Gluten… Vinegar.

Really?? Ahhh, man. All this time, my seemingly-innocent, crouton- and other-crunchy-things-free salads have been harboring yet one more harmful malefactor. Vinegar, in case you haven’t noticed, is a key ingredient in lots of other products… specifically condiments. Mayonnaise, barbecue sauces, and of course, most salad dressings. But I really love barbecue. And what about pickles? And salsa? Aaaaaghck!

So. After I got over the shock and disappointment at this news, I did a little poking around online. Here’s what I discovered:

Everyone seems to have an opinion on whether vinegar is safe for a GF diet.

Here’s a typical representation of the information and reactions I could find on several websites… accredited, personal, and otherwise. According to an article from a celiac website, the American Dietetic Association, the Gluten Intolerance Group, and the Celiac Disease Foundation all agree that, even if a certain kind of vinegar is made with a no-no grain, the distillation process removes the gluten-toxic proteins. Which means:

MALT Vinegar = Bad

DISTILLED Vinegar = Just fine, thanks

But in that same article, there were at least 5 comments from GF folks who say that most or all vinegars still cause discomfort and allergic reactions… and a healthy dose of suspicion.

“…vinegar of any variety (except apple cider vinegar) bothers me.”

“…Any distilled vinegar, except for balsamic (made from wine), wine or apple cider triggers an immediate response in my body. …Do the scientists that make these discoveries have access to people with celiac?”

“when I eat anything with distilled vinegar I react with sprue. Most alcohols that are distilled from the grains we can not eat are also a sprue effect. Hope this research was not funded by the groups that will profit from all the thousands that will start buying the products.”

“…please don’t try distilled vinegar or whiskeys if you have celiac!”

Adding to my confusion, there was also other feedback from people who I think are more like me… extremely sensitive but not nearly as allergic as others. Lots of these people said they have no problem with vinegar, as long as they avoid malt vinegar.

I did find an interesting (if you’re interested in vinegar, that is)  list on the Food & Drug Administration website of Where Different Varieties of Vinegar Come From. Apparently, vinegar used in most US products is not typically derived from wheat.

In fact, the USDA says that if a product lists “vinegar” on the label, it’s apple cider vinegar (made from apples, as you may suspect). Which is a distilled vinegar, and not a malt vinegar. Which should be ok, according to some. But which many others still have issues with. Hm.

So where does this limited, but highly informative research blitz leave me?

I think pretty much agree with this blogger, a mom who is “Suddenly Gluten Free” after her son was diagnosed with autism and celiac:

It still puzzles me whether “vinegar” can contain gluten, and I still have some questions, such as: Why is vinegar so taboo if most of it appears to be gluten-free? I know to avoid “flavored” vinegars and malt vinegar, and I know that “vinegar” on the label is apple vinegar. I have bottles of apple cider, red wine and white distilled vinegar in my cupboard… and for now I will stick to gluten-free brands I trust, such as Heinz and Kraft (they don’t hide gluten in their products).

Heinz's Wine & White Vinegar are GF-Approved... but NOT the cider-flavored stuff.

Heinz's Wine & White Vinegar are GF-Approved... but NOT the cider-flavored stuff.

Important clarification: The Heinz website states that: “Heinz Distilled White Vinegar is sourced from corn, not from wheat, rye, barley, or oats. Wine Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar are sourced from grapes and apples, respectively, not grains. Therefore, they would all be appropriate for gluten-sensitive individuals. However, Heinz® Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar is NOT gluten free.

And definitely no more malt vinegar on my fish and chips, I guess. Which I shouldn’t be eating anyways. Blah.


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