Wheat & Barley Grass

This article may not be reposted, reprinted, or republished, without the express written permission of Tricia Thompson

In a response to a consumer email inquiry regarding the use of a “gluten-free” (GF) labeling claim for a product made with ingredients like wheat grass and barley grass, Rhonda Kane, MS, RD, a Consumer Safety Officer with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), gave the following response, explaining aspects of the GF food labeling requirements FDA proposed in 2007; however, FDA has not yet issued a final rule to establish a regulatory definition of GF:

“FDA proposed specific criteria that must be met by any foods bearing a GF labeling claim.  (See page 2817 of the proposal for details.)  Among those criteria are that the food cannot be made with the grains wheat, rye, barely, or crossbred hybrids of these grains (referred to as “prohibited grains”), and that the food cannot contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten.  We also proposed the term “gluten” to mean the proteins that naturally occur in a prohibited grain and that may cause adverse health effects in persons with celiac disease (e.g., the prolamins and glutelins).  Further, we proposed to define wheat, rye, and barley to include any grains that belong to their same genera (i.e., Triticum, Secale, and Hordeum, respectively).  Consequently, grains like kamut, spelt, durum, etc. that belong to the same genus as Triticum also would be considered to be “wheat” for the purpose of GF labeling.

The young grasses of the plants belonging to genera Triticum, Secale, and Hordeum are different from the grains wheat, rye, and barley these plants produce at maturity.  Therefore, to be consistent with FDA’s proposed requirements, any grass (or grass juice) could be used as an ingredient to make a food labeled GF, provided that the food does not contain 20 ppm or more gluten, regardless of its source, including the presence of gluten due to cross-contact situations.”

My recommendations:

1. Do not eat/drink any product that contains wheat grass or barley grass if it is not labeled gluten free.

2. Do not eat/drink any labeled gluten-free product that contains wheat grass or barley grass unless the product has been tested for gluten using the R5 ELISA. If  the product contains barley grass and has been tested using the omega-gliadin ELISA the results may not be accurate.

© Tricia Thompson, MS, RD. All Rights Reserved.

This article may not be reposted, reprinted, or republished, without the express written permission of Tricia Thompson