Surprising foods and drinks which may contain gluten?

This is a list of foods and drinks that coeliacs sent me via Twitter in response to the question in the title.

Other than the obvious – ordinary breads, pastas, cakes, biscuits, cereals – there are always less clear-cut examples – such as stock cubes, soy sauce, condiments, chewing gum, confectionary – which newly diagnosed coeliacs may miss.

And sometimes there are especially surprising examples of products containing gluten, which surprise us all …

Some of these products will only rarely contain gluten, and my intention in including them isn’t to alarm you or damage your confidence in food.

Obviously, the sensible thing to do is to check all labels, always. Remember too that seeing ‘wheat’ in the ingredients usually, but does not necessarily, imply ‘contains gluten’. (Some wheat ingredients, such as Codex wheat starch and wheat glucose syrup, are gluten free. There is much more on understanding gluten on food labelling in my book, Coeliac Disease: what you need to know.)

Feel free to add more in comments – and please add any clarifications where there’s doubt.

* Apple juice (and once an orange juice)Linda said this was a problem with cheaper brands, at least in the Middle East, in which caramel colouring had been added. Also French fries and sorbets.

* Soya sauce – Karen. (Tamari is gluten free – eg Meridian’s or Clearspring Organic’s)

* Sauces (tomato / brown) and crisps – Bob. (For a list of gluten free crisps in the UK and US, click here.)

* White chocolate ‘mice’, macaroons, meringues, ice cream, mayonnaise, and hot chocolateLouise

* Bowl of mixed salad – Laura. (Possibly a manufacturing method issue, but beware croutons / thickened salad dressings in ready made salads.)

* Popping corn – Gemma.

* Wheatgrass – SB. In a pure state, wheatgrass is gluten-free – both Naturya Wheatgrass Powder and Pink Sun Organic Wheatgrass Powder are guaranteed gluten free. But SB said that samples may test positive ‘because you cannot guarantee that seed heads haven’t formed before harvest.’ SB added: ‘If you talk to any reputable cereal chemist in the United States they highly discourage consumption unless you grow your own.’ Here’s a blog on GF wheatgrass powders.

* LicoriceJodi. See this list of gluten free liquorice for lots of good options.

* Blue cheese (due to mouldy bread used to ‘infect’ the curds?) – Jodi again

* Frozen chips and colaFrugal Wife. (Cola, I’m guessing, has barley malt colouring / flavouring.)

* A brand of green kiwi juiceKirsty. I’m shocked by this one too. Kirsty couldn’t remember the brand, but if anyone knows, please comment.

* Risotto / rice dishes, mash potato, smoothies, colas, coffee whitener, roast potatoes, grated cheese, garlic sausage – an amazing list from David Johnstone.

* Cream cheese – a cheaper brand, says Caleigh. (Thickened with wheat starch, I imagine.)

I’m very grateful to all who responded to my original request. Please add others in comments below.


  1. Angela Coles

    bags of pre-grated cheese often used by caterers, I've even come across jacket potatoes in a cafe that were dusted with wheat flour to prevent sticking

  2. Siân

    Great post, Alex. I am finding that as soon as I think I've got gluten free foods cracked, I come across something else which unexpectedly contains gluten. There are some exceellent examples above of unexpected places where gluten lurks. I don't drink coca-cola but I could not believe it when I found out gluten is in some brands. It seems mainly to be in supermarket coke but can also be on tap in bars so Coeliacs need to beware of having coke as a mixer on tap.

    I have recently been amazed to find, according to my work canteen, gluten in baked beans and also in mayonnaise. Meaning no jacket potato with beans or tuna mayo for me!

    Like Angela, I bought a jacket potato from a place near my office only for me to return to my desk to eat it and find it was covered in wheat flour. I'm not sure if they dusted to prevent sticking or they were stored near to some floury ciabattas and then reheated as customers requested them. Either way, it resulted in me having to go out of the office again to find an alternative. Very annoying.

    Now, where can I find some strawberry laces?!

  3. Alex G

    @ Angela – pre-grated cheese? I guess that's just flour dusting to prevent clumping?

    @ Siân – thanks! I will look into the cola thing, but suspect it's barley malt colour. Gluten in baked beans? Is nothing safe?

  4. sarah

    It completely sucks. Really. Combine it with being able to have no milk or by product of and you think the worlds gone mad. Trying to find anything without gluten in it in marks and Spencer is bad, milk a nightmare butuckily they're good with labelling, yet must have recently switched manufacturers as their sweets have gone from safe to very not recently.

  5. Ruth Holroyd

    I think some wine can contain small traces, either from being fermented (is the right word?) in casks previously used for beer, or gluten can also be used in the process to help clear the liquid I think… but that could be wrong.

  6. Leon

    Cheap table salts can often contain an anti-caking agent which in a lot of cases is glutinous.

  7. Alex G

    @ sarah – I heard an M&S rep speak at a labelling / allergy conference once, and they said they always put 'New recipe' on the front of products which undergo a change of ingredients. Have you noticed that?

    @ Ruth – Micki Rose wrote about this:

    @ Leon – Another shocker. Is that in the States? I get the sense gluten lurks in more places there, possibly due to labelling still lagging behind?

  8. Jen Brown

    We should also take some care with this list. There is so much old/bad information on things that people thought/think contain gluten that really don't (like vinegar). I'm all for talking about surprising finds, but remember that (at least in the EU) labeling is quite good and they must note if there is a gluten-containing grain.

  9. Alex G

    You are absolutely right and thanks for making this important point. I will look into a few of these in more detail when I have more time – such as the cola, the kiwi juice, and the wine, which I'm a bit dubious about – and it's important to remember that a 'contains wheat' statement does not necessarily imply a gluten-containing product.

    It's also worth reiterating here that in many cases most examples of the above named foods will be completely safe – and labelled accordingly.

    I'll adjust the post to better reflect this.

    It was a quick blog post and perhaps I should've thought this through a little more. Really appreciate it, Jen.

  10. Jen Brown

    Cheers and thanks!

  11. Glutenfreewheel

    I was surprised to find that Lipton Peach Iced Tea was not gluten free. Note that this may be a special Australian recipe that doesn't cross international borders, the ingredients here are listed as:

    Water, sugar, tea extract (4.5%), food acids (296, 330, 331), peach juice (good to know it's in there somewhere… that is from me btw, not Lipton), flavours (contain WHEAT derivative), antioxidant (300). CONTAINS WHEAT PRODUCTS

    As mentioned above, 'Contains Wheat Products' doesn't necessarily mean it's not gluten free, it could be caramel colour, glucose syrup or dextrose with no detectable gluten. So I wrote to Lipton to clarify and got a generic email from Unilever with their gluten free listing and it was NOT on there. These other Lipton Iced Teas were on the gluten free list:

    Red- Rooibos and Guarana
    Green Tea Apple
    Green Tea Citrus
    Green Lemon Light


  12. Alex G

    That list 'feels' very unlike any label I've come across in the UK – the fruit acids and their numbers especially. I guess it's possible that they simply couldn't guarantee a gluten-free product with no detectable gluten and so omitted it from the list they gave you. Thanks for posting this!

  13. Kel

    Great post! I posed the same question to my readers linking your blog to my Gluten Free Photographer facebook page and they came up with a few too:

    Pre-cooked sliced chicken breast
    Tesco Diet Fiery Ginger beer
    and someone raised the issue of reacting to glucose syrup derived from wheat in sweets, etc.

    Definitely food for thought!

  14. Alex G

    Thanks Kel – wondered where those FB hits were coming from!

    Imagine the chicken was breaded? The ginger beer – again I guess like the colas a barley malt? There are so many to check out, but will get around to it if I can, probably when I come to do the Coeliac gluten-free challenge.

    Glucose syrup – possible some may react to traces, but suspect some also react to the sugars themselves.

  15. Gillian

    Hi Alex – bit late on the game on this-playing catch up! Queried the wine society about wine/gluten free and they were firm that it is. However, every now and then, there are rumbles in the twittersphere that this is not so – some of the discount supermarkets were named as not selling GF wine. So, although I'm trying to clarify, am probably still baffling! Hope it helps (a little)

  16. Wine Legs

    Here's one that REALLY surprised me… seafood sticks (also called crab sticks or surimi).

  17. Lois Bennett

    It really is shocking – you have to check EVERYTHING that's remotely processed. I cook with a lot of fresh vegetables and organic grains (quinoa, rice, etc.) that are pure and on their own (i.e. not a flavoured rice packet, etc.) to make sure that there's no wheat sneaking in there, but sometimes you have to use processed food (e.g. pasta), so for these I use 'free from' products and also, a lot of health food type shops sell organic products which I've noticed don't have lots of seemingly unnecessary additives and ingredients. The bottom line, though, is read every label and when in doubt, don't eat whatever it is. Unfortunately, this does mean we miss out on a lot of tasty stuff!

  18. Alex G

    Yep, read every label is a good mantra, Lois! I do think free from options are improving constantly though, so hopefully those tasty things you miss out on will diminish further over time, as more products are developed.

  19. Anonymous

    Hi, just read your post as I have a gluten allergy and recently reacted to a FreeFrom product! Just to clarify, the reason there is wheat in some wines is because some wines are aged in oak barrels and some "wineries" seal their barrels with a wheat paste – apparently so the amount of gluten is so miniscule it can be called gluten free but for those ultra-sensitive it can cause a reaction! Kirsten

  20. Alex G

    Yes, my friend and colleague Micki Rose (Truly Gluten Free blog) is interested in this subject, but I have to admit I'm a little unsure about it. It sounds feasible enough, and may well be true, but I'd like to see some evidence in support of this. Gluten is present in miniscule levels in lots of foods, so part of me feels we should always consider other options in these cases. Thanks for comment, Kirsten.

  21. Anonymous

    This has been a real help. I am a coeliac and it is really annoying having to check everything but I'm getting used to it. It's nice when other people understand too! Luckily the range is very quickly expanding, so everything is becoming easier.

  22. Alex G

    Yes, it is getting better – products, and labelling!

  23. Anonymous

    A comment on wine. i have found some of it does contain gluten. I live in South Korea and a large manufacturer (Jinro) makes "House Wine" and it has grain alcohol added to it–I think they ferment it quickly and then add the grain alcohol. I used to love what is called bokbunjajoo or raspberry wine in Korea–a standard alcohol here–then started getting headaches from it as I have grown more sensitive. Come to find out they also add grain alcohol to their wine.

  24. Alex G

    Grain alcohol is considered gluten free itself, thanks to distillation, but I'm not sure whether there are different methods in that part of the world that make the local varieties not GF. There could be other chemicals / ingredients you're reacting to, potentially? Just a thought …

  25. stalkingstarchild

    I look for wheat barley and rye.
    what other ingredients do I look for as having gluten in the product?

  26. Alex G

    And oats – unless confirmed gluten-free and you're sure you can tolerate. Other gluten grains include spelt and triticale and kamut.

  27. Sally

    My 9 year old daughter has recently been diagnosed with coeliac disease. We are coping at home with it well, but when we go out it is a nightmare and we usually end up with her poorly. Today she drank some Lipton iced tea lemon and it has played havoc with her. Has anyone else had a problem with this product?

    1. Alex G (Post author)

      What are the full ingredients, Sally? As this is an old post, I’ll ask social media followers whether they’ve experienced similar.

    2. Alex G (Post author)

      Coeliac David Johnstone says this rings a bell with him. Here’s the thread I started on Twitter, so you can follow for further responses:


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