11 February 2017


Often my celiac clients ask me
if it is safe for them to have vinegar or not??
I have also seen this question posted in multiple forums. So I thought why not write a blog based on my knowledge and experience to help people find an answer to their question.

Vinegar is a controversial food item within the gluten free world. Many experts believe that all vinegar including barley and malt vinegar and other kinds of vinegar made from gluten grains are safe to consume on a gluten-free diet. This is because vinegar is a highly distilled product and the distillation process removes all the gluten fragments.

At the same time, many other experts question the safety of anything that is made using gluten containing ingredients - taking into consideration the fact that the present gluten testing technology doesn’t always pick up any small fragments of the gluten left after the refining process.

Also, many people with gluten and non-gluten sensitivity have reported of adverse reactions when they consume vinegar derived from gluten grains.

So what's the truth?

As per FDA established criteria any food that contains less than 20ppm of gluten as measured using scientifically validated analytical methods can be considered and labeled gluten free. The distilled vinegar obtained from gluten grains qualifies that criteria, hence gluten free.

But people who are reacting to gluten based distilled vinegar are also not imagining their reactions. It is not clear what percentages of people react to this kind of vinegar due to the absence of any studies. But I believe it depends upon the level of your gluten sensitivity. Highly sensitive individuals are more likely to react to the traces of gluten present in the foodstuff. My advice to all the newly diagnosed celiacs is to proceed very carefully until you find for yourself whether you react or not and if possible it’s better if they can avoid it. Why take a risk when other kinds of vinegar are also available.

What risk-free choices are available...?

Any vinegar that is made from gluten free grains is a risk-free choice. Common ones include: 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Grape Vinegar
  • Corn Vinegar
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Balsamic Vinegar

However, be careful if you are using the distilled variety of the above vinegars as there is always a possibility that can get cross contaminated during the distillation process. So if you are really planning to make a risk-free choice then go for the raw/undistilled vinegar. It is also easily available online and in stores.

Raw vinegars can also be used the same way as distilled vinegars, but they have a very strong smell (at least I don’t like it) and they taste slightly different too. But do not make much difference to the cooked food. However, this can also be managed if you boil the vinegar for some time before adding it to the food. Boiling removes the raw smell and improves the taste quality and they taste and smell no different than the distilled vinegar.

So it is you who has to decide which vinegar you want to use- distilled or raw, made from gluten ingredients or gluten free ingredients.

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