Canadian Celiac Association

Celiac News

Acceptability of Grains and Other Foods

This material was researched and written by Dr. J.A. Campbell

Dr. J. A. Campbell (1923 - 1993) had an extensive background in the field of nutrition. He worked in the Federal Department of Agriculture, the Drug Directorate of the Department of National Health and Welfare, and became Director of the Nutrition Bureau, Health Protection Branch in 1972, where he was officer-in-charge of the Nutrition Canada Survey. Dr. Campbell received several distinguished awards for his many contributions in the field of Nutritional Science.

Grains Maltol Carmel MSG Vinegar Distilled Beverages Beer & Ale Wine


Glutinous Rice

Varieties of white rice have been described as long grain, waxy and sweet or glutinous. These characteristics of cooking and eating qualities are related to the relative amounts of the two types of starch which they contain, amylose and amylopectin. Sweet or glutinous rice contains virtually no amylose. The term glutinous means gummy and does not refer to its gluten content.


Triticale is a man made cross between wheat (triticum) and rye (secale). It is an artificial genus containing the characteristics of both parents. Although it has not been clinically tested, its gluten content and therefore its toxicity may be considered to be similar to that of wheat and rye. It should not be used by Celiacs.


Botanically amaranth is not a cereal. It is a member of the Amaranthaceae family of plants which also includes pigweed and tumbleweed. Gluten has never been found in this family of plants and therefore amaranth may be used by Celiacs.

Flax Seed

Flax seed is the seed of the flax plant of the family Linaceae. Gluten has never been found in seeds, therefore flaxseed may be used by Celiacs.

Bulgar (Burghul)

Bulgar is parboiled wheat which is then dried and cracked. It must be avoided by persons with celiac disease.

Wild Rice

Wild Rice is botanically closely related to ordinary white rice. It would be expected therefore, that it would not contain gluten. Although it has not been clinically tested there seems to be no reason to avoid its use.


Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has been grown and used as food for centuries by inhabitants of the Andes region of South America. Botanically quinoa is not a cereal but the fruit of the plant Chenopodium quinoa which resembles lamb's quarters and pigweed. It is a member of the goose-foot family Chenopodiaceae, so called because of the shape of the leaf. There are no data to indicate that gluten occurs in plants of this family. There is therefore, no basis for concern about the use of quinoa by persons with celiac disease. An undocumented report indicates that quinoa has been given over a period of several months to a number of persons with Celiac disease with no "untoward" effects.

Quinoa is a very nutritious grain and therefore a very useful alternative to wheat, rye, barley and commercial oats in the diet of celiacs. It is markedly higher in protein, fat, fibre, calcium and iron than most cereals. Its relatively high content of lysine and sulphuramino acids makes it a good supplement to rice and corn as well as to soybeans. Quinoa is reported as having a nutty flavour somewhat like wild rice.


The claim has been made recently that the cereal grain spelt can be used as a constituent of the diet "to treat and heal" a wide variety of diseased including celiac disease. There is no basis for this claim.

Spelt (Triticum spelta) also called German wheat is closely related botanically to other wheats. It is of the same genus as bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) and macaroni wheat (Triticum turgidum). The protein, fat and amino acid content of spelt is similar to that of wheat. It would be expected therefore, that its gliadin (gluten) content would also be similar and that it would be as toxic to celiac as wheat.

No adequate clinical data are available to justify the claims made. Spelt must be avoided by persons with celiac disease.


Semolina consists of the large hard grains of wheat retained in the bolting machine after the fine flour has passed through it. Semolina must be avoided.


Botanically buckwheat is not a cereal. It is a member of the family Polygonaceae which is quite distinct from the grass family in which cereals are classified. Buckwheat is widely used in the U.K. and other European countries in gluten-free diets. There is evidence, however, that some commercial samples of grain and flour may be contaminated with wheat. Care should therefore be taken to ensure that the material purchased is not so contaminated.

Millet, Sorghum

Millet and Sorghum are cereal grains which are botanically more closely related to corn than to wheat or rye. It has therefore been suggested that they do not contain gluten. Although they have not been clinically tested, both millet and sorghum have been used in gluten-free recipes in the U.K. and Europe and found acceptable. There seems no reason to avoid their use.


Recent studies have indicated that pure uncontaminated oats can be used in the gluten-free diet with care. Please read the Professional Advisory Board statement re oats.

Other Foods


Maltol, also called larinxinic acid, is a synthetic (manufactured) flavouring substance. Its organic chemical name is 3-hudroxy-2-methyl-(4)-pyrone. It has been identified in the bark of larch trees, pine needles, chicory and roasted malt. It is used to impart "freshly-baked" odour and flavour to bread and cakes. In spite of its name it does not contain malt or gluten and is therefore safe for celiacs.


Caramel or burnt sugar colouring is made by heating sugar or glucose in the presence of small quantities of acid or alkali. It is used for colouring foods and confectionery. It does not contain gluten and is therefore sage for celiacs.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid found in many foods. It has been produced from both wheat gluten and sugar beet molasses but is now produced almost entirely from the latter in a highly purified form.  Most authorities agree that it is harmless. There should be no concern among Celiacs about the use of foods containing MSG.


Vinegar is a dilute solution of acetic acid containing flavouring materials. The name, derived from the French vinaigre means literally sour or sharp wine.

Vinegar is made by a process of acetification of alcoholic solutions produced from sugary or starchy raw materials such as apples, grapes, grain and molasses, which impart flavour to the products. Thus cider vinegar derived from apple juice, malt vinegar from barley malt or other malt grains, wine vinegar from wines and white or distilled vinegar from distilled alcohol have characteristic flavours. Vinegar may also be seasoned with herbs and spices. Cider vinegar is widely used in Canada and the U.S. and malt vinegar in the U.K. Distilled vinegar is used particularly in the preparation of pickles, condiments and other processed foods.

Since wheat, rye, barley and commercial oats may be used in the production of malted grains and distilled alcohol there has been concern by some people about the acceptability of malt vinegar and distilled white vinegar for persons with celiac disease. It is useful therefore, to review the status of these foods.

If the starting raw material in vinegar production is starchy products such as grains, the starch must be broken down to simple sugar. The first step in vinegar production is the conversion of these sugars or those in molasses, apples or grapes to alcohol by fermentation with a strain of the yeast Saccharomyces from brewer's or baker's yeast. This produces what is called vinegar stock which is a dilute solution of alcohol containing a variety of other substances from the original raw material. Yeast cells and other debris are removed by sedimentation. The second step is the conversion of alcohol in the vinegar stock to acetic acid by enzymes produced by acetic acid bacteria of the species Acetobacter. Vinegar from this acetification process available on the market contains 4 gm. Acetic acid per 200 ml.

For the person with celiac disease there is obviously no problem with the use of cider or wine vinegar. We have recently demonstrated that, contrary to views held by some, there is no detectable amount of gluten (prolamin) in distilled alcohol. There can therefore be no possibility of gluten in distilled white vinegar which contains acetic acid equivalent to about 4% alcohol. Celiacs should therefore have no cause for concern about distilled white vinegar or foods such as pickles and condiments which may contain it.

Editor's Note: The present position of the Professional Advisory Board of the Canadian Celiac Association is that people with celiac disease MUST AVOID malt vinegar.  (Oct. 2002)



Distilled alcoholic beverages such as gin, vodka, scotch whisky and rye whiskey are made from the fermentation of wheat, barley or rye. Since they are distilled, they do not contain prolamins and are allowed unless otherwise contraindicated.

Beer and ale, usually made from barley, may contain 1 - 2 mg of prolamins per pint (570 mL) and therefore is not allowed.

Wines are made from grapes and are allowed. Fortified wines such as sherry and port contain added alcohol and are also allowed.

(Contents of this addendum are taken from The Canadian Celiac Association Handbook, 3rd Edition)