is barley gluten free

We get a lot of letters into our Ask The Editor and Ask the Chef inbox! We also receive physical letters sent to our office throughout the year. One of the questions we are asked is, “Is barley gluten-free?”

Barley is not gluten-free. When thinking about gluten – people often think about just wheat. Wheat is a top 8 food allergen, so the FDA is required to label it when it appears in food. If you’d like to learn more about mandatory food labeling, check out Gluten Free & More‘s blog. Wheat can be seen everywhere on food labels – from the ingredient list to the “may contain” to the “contains” statement. However, the FDA does not require that barley be called out on labels (it’s not a top 8 food allergen). So if a product contains barley, you should find it in the ingredient list.

If you’ve just been looking to the “contains” allergen statement on food packaging for gluten, we encourage you to read the entire label, including the ingredient list. A food product can be free from wheat but contain barley–and therefore, contain gluten.

One of the best examples of hidden barley is Kellogg’s Rice Krispies® cereal. It is made from rice, so people can mistakenly think of it as gluten-free. However, Rice Krispies are not gluten-free Rice Krispies contains “malt flavor” made from barley malt – and that makes Rice Krispies unsafe for anyone with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity!

While barley does not have to be labeled as an allergen in foods, it cannot be in any product that is labeled gluten-free. If you’d like to learn more about the FDA’s labeling of gluten-free food, check out the FDA’s website. Since 2014, any product that bears a gluten-free label must be gluten-free (i.e., less than 20 ppm gluten). If you see a gluten-free label on a product, it cannot, by law, contain barley. However, always read ingredients – it’s a good habit to develop and it will help keep you safe.

It would be great to see barley included in FDA’s FALPCA food allergy labeling, and we’re not the only people who think so. Check out Gluten Free Watchdog’s call to action about more clear labeling for barley.

So when you think about gluten, think “BROW” – absolutely no BARLEY, no RYE, no (contaminated) OATS and no WHEAT. Always look for a gluten-free label on a product, and always read the entire ingredient list. 

Have you ever found a product you assumed was gluten-free, but contained barley? Leave your story in the comments below!