Interested in a gluten-free lifestyle? Have you ever wondered whether the ketchup you spread generously on your sandwich or serve alongside your French fries is gluten-free or not? A simple condiment like ketchup, if not gluten-free, can ruin your perfect gluten-free lifestyle and put your health at risk. Is ketchup actually gluten-free? Well, you have just landed on the right page.
This article explores the gluten-free status of ketchup with scientifically supported information. Before that, let us discuss more about what gluten is and why it is important for some people to make sure that the ketchup they like so much is gluten-free.
WHAT IS GLUTEN ?
Gluten is a family of proteins present in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, oat, and rye. It is essential to maintain seed quality during storage. Gluten is responsible for the stickiness of your dough and the fluffiness of the bread.
There are two major types of gluten, known as gliadin and glutenin. The adverse health effect of gluten is mostly due to gliadin.
PROBLEMS WITH GLUTEN
Gluten is not bad for everyone. Most people can tolerate gluten with no severe effects. However. among gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant individuals, it may cause unpleasant allergic reactions. In serious cases, it can permanently damage the digestive system and can even become life-threatening.
Have you ever heard of wheat allergy? Or maybe gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity? How about celiac disease? People who have these medical conditions need to avoid gluten-containing foods. Though all these disorders are caused by gluten present in grain or foods prepared from grain, there are subtle differences between them.
Wheat allergy is caused by proteins including gluten present in wheat. This type of allergy activates your immune system, resulting in symptoms like diarrhea, hives, and rash. Wheat allergy can also cause severe breathing difficulty, known as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening, if not treated immediately.
In celiac disease, on the other hand, when you ingest gluten, the body tends to treat gluten as a foreign invader. As a result, your immune system attacks and destroys microvilli in your small intestine. In some cases, the destruction of microvilli can be permanent. Microvilli are tiny finger-like structures in the small intestine, which are involved in the absorption of nutrients. Once they are destroyed, absorption of nutrients is disrupted and you suffer from malnutrition despite eating nutritious foods. This condition can be particularly devastating in children, as they fail to grow properly. It also increases the risk of infant mortality.
IS KETCHUP GLUTEN-FREE ?
Whether Ketchup is gluten-free or not depends on the ingredients used for its production. Most importantly, the production process also plays the key. Ketchup produced in facilities where gluten-containing ingredients are used to prepare other food items can be cross-contaminated, even if ketchup does not contain any gluten-containing ingredients.
What is Ketchup Made of ?
The oldest recipe of ketchup was developed in China. The original Chinese recipe was based on fish mixed with spices. However, in this day and age, the main ingredient of ketchup, particularly the ones produced in the western countries are tomatoes, salt, sugar, vinegar, and water. Other spices such as onion, garlic, and chili are also added. Various thickeners are also added to achieve the desired consistency of ketchup. Preservatives are also regularly added to ketchup to increase the shelf life of the product.
Does Ketchup Contain Gluten ?
As ketchup does not contain any of the grains that contain gluten, it is naturally gluten-free. However, if the added thickeners and stabilizers contain gluten, your ketchup can have gluten in it. Vinegar distilled from wheat can be another source of gluten in your ketchup.
Moreover, manufacturers who produce ketchup in common facilities where gluten-containing ingredients are used for preparing other products without proper cross-contamination prevention measures, ketchup can become contaminated with gluten.
How to Buy Gluten-Free Ketchup ?
You have probably seen Ketchup on supermarket shelves labeled as “Gluten-Free”. Note that “Gluten-Free” does not always mean “zero” gluten. Rather, it means that the ketchup contains less than 20ppm gluten (20mg of gluten per litter of the product). This level of gluten is considered safe for most people and approved as gluten-free by the Food and Drug Administration of the USA.
One way to make sure that your ketchup is gluten-free is to look for the gluten-containing ingredients in the product label. Food producers in many countries such as the USA need to mention in the product label any ingredients that may contain gluten or other allergens. In addition to the ingredients listed on the label, look for any warning such as “may contain traces of gluten” or “may contain allergens”.
Many grocery shops sell Ketchup prepared by small producers as their store-brand Ketchup. Don’t hesitate to ask whether those store-brand Ketchup is gluten-free or not. Remember, it is your health at stake.
How to Avoid Cross-Contamination in the Kitchen ?
After the careful selection of the gluten-free ketchup. It is of paramount importance to make sure that you do no cross-contaminate it with gluten from other sources in your kitchen. The knife you use to cut your gluten-containing bread and spoons that you use in a dish that contains gluten are some potential sources of gluten cross-contamination with the ketchup. So remember to thoroughly wash any knife, spoon, or other utensils before you use them for dispensing your gluten-free ketchup. You can also consider buying a squeeze bottle of ketchup to avoid such cross-contamination.
GLUTEN-FREE KETCHUP BRANDS
Below are some Ketchup brands that are gluten-free as per the information from the producers. However, this list is not exhaustive. You can also look for other Ketchup brands that may suit your taste buds better.
1. Heinz Ketchup
Heinz Ketchup is the most popular Ketchup in the US. It is considered gluten-free to 20ppm. According to their website, the original ketchup as well as the quick squeeze Ketchup does not contain wheat, oats, rye, or any other grain ingredients. The vinegar used to prepare Heinz Ketchup is distilled from corns, which does not contain gluten as well.
2. French’s Ketchup
French’s Ketchup is gluten-free (tested for less than 20ppm) as well as corn syrup-free too. However, as French’s uses wheat-based vinegar, if you are sensitive to less than 20ppm gluten, you are advised to avoid this brand of Ketchup. Always read the ingredients label again during your purchase to ensure accurate and up to date information.
3. Annie’s Naturals Organic Ketchup
Annie’s makes a great variety of products for the gluten-free market. As per their company site, their ketchup is tested for 20ppm gluten. Moreover, the vinegar they use is either based on beets or corns, which do not contain gluten.
4. Organicylle Ketchup
Their organic ketchup is gluten-free as certified by USFDA. The company founder even says that the vinegar used in Organicylle Ketchup is derived either from cane or corn, as such is certified as gluten-free.
5. Sir Kensington’s Ketchup
Both their classic ketchup and spicy ketchup are tested for gluten at 10ppm level. According to their website, they also have systems in place to prevent cross-contamination.
Ketchup is one of the most common condiments. However, it can also be a source of gluten when prepared with gluten-containing ingredients or cross-contaminated with gluten during other food preparation. If you have celiac disease or non-celiac disease gluten sensitivity, you should always look for gluten-free ketchup brands in the market. Bon Appetite!