Is soy really gluten free?

April 25, 2012
Dave for Gluten Free

Dave, Gluten Free Advocate

A new study, Gluten Contamination of Grains, Seeds, and Flours in the United States: A Pilot Study, has raised some uncomfortable questions about our gluten free labeling standards in the United States. Let me clarify by saying that soy beans do not naturally contain gluten, but soy beans are commonly grown in rotation with wheat crops. This means that the farmers who grow them use the same fields for both wheat and soy, as well as the same equipment to harvest, process and transport them.

In the study by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, Anne Roland Lee, MSEd, RD, LD and Thomas Grace, they tried to assess the potential for gluten contamination in single ingredient grains, seeds, and flours considered inherently gluten free but not labeled as “gluten free”. They found that 32% of the samples tested contained more than 20ppm (parts per million) of gluten, with the worst offender containing 2,925ppm. Fifty-nine percent of the products tested did contain less than 5ppm, which is considered safe for celiac sufferers. In fact, anything less than 20ppm is considered to be safe.

So, are you wondering where do we go from here? Under the current FDA labeling proposal, any manufacturer who does not test their products for gluten but chooses to label their product as gluten free must state that all foods of that type are gluten free. But, this study has found that the statement is false and could be leading people to unknowingly consume gluten from foods that they thought were safe.

The only advice I have is to buy as many products as possible with the “Certified Gluten Free” label. That way you know that product has been tested and is considered to be safe for people with celiacs.