There’s Gluten Where? Charcoal and New Soda to Watch Out For

By Emily

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been living a gluten-free lifestyle — every now and then, something will come along and just flabbergast you with its weird ingredients.

Two things that may contain wheat — completely unrelated to each other, mind you — which have come to my own attention recently and which many couldn’t have predicted in a million years: a new soda from Japan, and your standard grilling charcoal.

Let’s talk about the soda first. Pepsi Special is being marketed in Japan, according to The Week. The soda is aimed at “young, health-conscious men,” and is supposed to block fat from being absorbed into the drinker’s system. It will do this by incorporating dextrin, a fiber derived from wheat starch. Now, there is one thing very important to note: generally items that contain dextrin derived from wheat are in fact gluten-free. The Gluten-Free Dietician has a long explanation and even items made entirely from wheat-based dextrin can have no detectable gluten (there is no gluten in starch, even wheat starch).

So, no need to necessarily avoid the soda if it ever appears in the US (or you visit Japan), unless of course you have a wheat allergy. Still, who knew?

The second item to knock my socks off is a bit more concerning. I was first made aware of it when researching Jennifer Esposito’s gluten-free organization, Jennifer’s Way. Apparently, some types of charcoal briquette use wheat as a binder, and as the charcoal burns residue can wind up on your food.

Huh? What? Where? I dug around a bit and found a post from the Celiac Disease page of and learned that, “According to the California Barbeque Association, the starches used can come from corn, rice, potatoes and/or wheat.”

Now again, this is starch that we’re talking about. Gluten is a protein, not a starch, and pure starch would not have gluten in it – but there’s no telling how pure the binding starch in charcoal briquettes would be. There’s no real reason for a standard briquette company to spend extra money putting purified starch into their product (after all, most hamburgers get grilled up and popped right onto a big ol’ gluteny bun).

Unfortunately, there is anecdotal evidence of some people with celiac disease feeling sick from eating foods grilled with this type of heat source. So what’s a person to do? Certainly sensitivities vary from person to person, but to be on the safe side (or if you feel like gluten is sneaking into your diet somewhere and aren’t sure where) avoid grills you don’t have the complete scoop on. In general, pure wood charcoal and gas grills pose no threat, nor do Kingsford briquettes, which are made with corn starch.


What hidden gluten has surprised you lately?

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