How Wheat Starch Can Fit Into a Gluten Free Diet
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barely so you may wonder how wheat starch can fit into a gluten free diet. For over a decade, wheat starch specifically processed to remove wheat starch has been allowed to be labeled as gluten free in Europe but it is a recent allowance in the United States with an update to rules issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In order for a food to be labeled as gluten free, it has to be proven to not be harmful for those with celiac disease.
The Celiac Disease Foundation describes celiac disease as a “serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.” If someone with celiac does ingest gluten, even in small amounts, can lead to damage on the villi (projections that line the small intestine) and when damaged affect the ability for nutrients to be absorbed into the body. Given the serious consequences of ingesting gluten, it is crucial that labeling is accurate and protects those with this disorder.
For a food to meet the FDA requirements to be labeled gluten free, it must contain less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten. In order for wheat starch to meet this requirement, it has to go through a gluten extraction process. The process involves milling the wheat into flour, making dough, and washing out the starch. Gluten does not dissolve in water, but starch does, so the gluten protein sediment will sink to the bottom allowing for the starch to be drained out and dried leaving a wheat starch achieving the less than 20 ppm of gluten threshold and providing those with celiac, or gluten intolerance, to incorporate wheat starch into their diets.
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