There are a lot of gluten-free myths out there. I would like to debunk some of them. (This page is a work in progress.)
Myth 1: Vinegar is not gluten-free. Truth: Most vinegars are gluten-free. The exceptions are malt vinegar and “flavored” vinegars, which have stuff added to them after the distillation process.
Myth 2: McDonald’s French Fries are not gluten-free. Truth: A very small amount of gluten was in a flavoring used in the oil to par-fry the potatoes. The french fries have been tested and NO detectable gluten was found in the final product. Even the CSA believes them to be gluten-free. Now, you may not want to eat them on the principal that they once put even a small amount of wheat in them. That’s fine. But the bigger concern is the level of cross-contact caused by the obnoxious 16 year-old in charge of the fryer. If you’ve never had chicken nugget bits in your french fries, then you’re pretty lucky. And that is why I don’t eat their fries.
Myth 3: Alcohol from grain sources are not gluten-free. Truth: The distillation process removes the gluten. I don’t know what kinds of alcohol are distilled, because I don’t drink it. I do know that beer is not distilled and does have gluten (unless you get one of the brands of gf beer).
Myth 4: Envelope glue has gluten. Truth: I have not seen any proof that it does happen, though it still could. But, seriously, why would you want to put that stuff on your tongue anyways? I quit licking them when I was 10. Dab a little water on it and spread it around, and you’re set to go. Your tongue will thank you.
Myth 5: All oats are evil. Truth: The main problem with oats is the way they are cultivated and handled. Most are planted along with some stray wheat seeds, grown in fields previously growing wheat, harvested by a machine that harvested wheat, stored in a silo that stored wheat… I’m pretty sure you get the idea by now. There are now gluten-free oats available from a few different companies, all (I believe) constantly testing to ensure they are gf. Gifts of Nature and Gluten-Free Oats are both certified gf by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (they are very thorough). Bob’s Red Mill has gf oats that they test – but watch out, because they also have non-gf oats (from the non-gf facility). Creamhill Estates and Only Oats, both out of Canada, also have gluten-free oats. There is a small percentage of people with Celiac Disease who appear to have an immune reaction to oats, similar to gluten. For this reason, it is suggested that you be gf for a year and have negative antibodies before trying gf oats. Then take it slowly. No more than a half cup (uncooked measurement) two times a week or less for awhile. Your body will not be used to this type of fiber, so it may cause a few abdominal problems while your body readjusts to the fiber.
Myth 6: All baking supplies are created equal. Truth: There is a lot of variation in baking supplies. Clabbergirl and Rumford baking powders work differently (they are made by the same company). One brand of xanthan gum is less effective than other brands (and some people like it that way). Not all flours are ground the same, and they often taste different (especially bean and sorghum flours) from brand to brand. They may even absorb water at different rates. Just because a recipe doesn’t work right for you doesn’t mean the recipe is wrong – you are probably just using different brands of ingredients than the last person.
Myth 7: The “Low Gluten-Host” (for Catholics) has gluten. Truth: In regards to the Benedictine Sisters’ host, the term “low gluten” is basically a technicality to circumvent [Catholic] Canon Law. Canon Law requires “sufficient gluten to attain the confection of bread”–in other words, to stick together.
The Benedictine Sister’s host sticks together. It is made of highly purified wheat starch. It tests negative for gluten to the level it can be tested. But, since there is no way to test that there is not even ONE molecule of gluten in it, the [Catholic] Church is allowing the assumption that there is, and that, since it sticks together, that’s enough.
There is NOT however, enough gluten to trigger the Celiac immune response. The host is safe. The only reason it isn’t termed gluten free is to allow it to fit into a loophole in Canon Law. (As written by Bobbie Coughlin, co-chair of the Hartford Celiac Support Group, and host of the On-line Celiac Support Group at Delphi Forums.) For more information, please contact the Catholic Celiac Society.
For those of you who are not Catholic, but take a sacrament or communion, there are other alternatives. EnerG makes gluten-free communion wafers. Many churches will allow rice cakes (choose a safe one like Lundberg – no Quaker), gluten-free crackers, or let you bring in homemade gf bread. Talk to your pastor/preacher/bishop/whomever to see what will work best for you.