Is Instant Espresso Powder (and Coffee) Gluten Free? – What You May Not Know

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I’m finalizing a list of brands of gluten-free ingredients for every ingredient listed in my upcoming cookbook. It will also be part of this site as a searchable database. I will add to it as opportunities arise. Meanwhile, when I searched for the safest instant espresso powder brand, I was shocked at what I learned. One simple phone call turned into hours of research.

Medaglia D’oro Espresso Instant Coffee

I purchased some Medaglia D’oro Espresso Instant Coffee but hadn’t used it yet.

 

The Label

Because Medaglia D’oro Espresso Instant Coffee consists of only one ingredient, no ingredient list is necessary on the label. The label does not contain any warning that the product “contains wheat” or “may contain wheat”.

 

The Allergen Labeling Law

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) states that a product must include a warning if a food contains one of the primary eight food allergens (wheat, soy, dairy, shellfish, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, and eggs).

 

Cross-Contact

Cross-contact means that a residue or trace amount of an allergen gets into another product unintentionally or when there is the potential for this to occur.

If a product, contains the unintentional presence of a major food allergen resulting from cross-contact that occurred during manufacturing (from shared equipment or transportation), no statement is mandatory.

 

FDA Guidance for Allergen Cross-Contact

The FDA suggests that manufacturers add a statement on product labels when they have the potential or trace amounts of an allergen such as “may contain [allergen]” or “produced in a facility that also uses [allergen].” The above suggestions are just guidance, not an FDA rule.

The FDA states it is considering ways to best manage the use of cross-contact statements by manufacturers to better inform consumers.

 

Is Medaglia D’oro Instant Espresso Powder Gluten-Free?

Today, I called Medaglia D’oro to make sure that it was gluten free. The representative stated that they had their instant espresso on their “contains gluten list” because of the way coffee grows and is processed.

 

How Are Coffee Seeds Planted

When I research how farmers plant and grow espresso seeds (they’re seeds not beans), I learned nothing about gluten cross-contact/contamination. They plant the initial seeds in a box container, When they are large enough to replant, they are then placed in small pots. When they get even larger, they are planted in the ground. The only way this scenario could produce cross-contamination is by planting the coffee bean plants near glutenous crops such as wheat, barley, or rye.

 

Instant and Ground Coffee

I can only assume that the issue mainly lies in their manufacturing process. Instant coffee and ground coffee is open to cross-contact. Instant coffee also has to undergo a longer process than ground since it is freeze-dried. It can come in contact with equipment and transportation devices that have carried or processed gluten-containing products.

 

How is Instant Coffee Made?

Instant coffee is made from brewed coffee. There are two methods of making instant coffee. In the first method, they grind the beans. Then they brew the ground coffee. They then spray the coffee in a hot-air environment, and it automatically turns into powder, such as in the case of espresso powder.

To make freeze-dried coffee, they freeze liquid coffee. Then the crystals are forced from the frozen coffee through a chemical process known as sublimation (where a solid turns into a gas without going through a liquid stage, like when ice cubes shrink when they are in the freezer).

Because both processes used to make instant coffee removes so much of the flavor and aroma, manufacturers may add additional flavor and aroma compounds to enhance the product.

 

Something to Consider

If you are highly gluten intolerant (can’t handle less than 20 parts per million (ppm), grind whole coffee beans. Note that instant coffee is more likely to contain gluten than ground coffee beans due to the lengthy process.

 

References:

FDA, Food Allergies: What You Need to Know, Accessed 4/1/2016.

FDA, Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 Questions and Answers (number 13), Accessed 4/1/2016.

Health Minute regarding Cyrex Labs tests, How to get the most out of your food sensitivity panel, Accessed 4/1/2016.

Wikipedia, Instant Coffee, Accessed 4/1/2016.

 

 

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