Peanuts, peanut flour, peanut oil, and peanut butter are naturally gluten-free. The issue with peanut butter containing gluten generally comes from the potential for cross-contamination.
Peanut butter contains at least 90% peanuts, along with sugar and salt for flavoring. These three ingredients are usually all that goes into making ‘natural’ peanut butter. Because natural peanut butters don’t contain stabilizers, the peanut oil will separate out, and collect at the top of the container.
The ‘stirred’ type of peanut butter that do contain stabilizers are still made with gluten-free ingredients (in North America). Vegetable or palm oils are used as stabilizers to prevent the separation of the peanut butter.
So why then aren’t all peanut butters labeled as gluten-free?
It really all comes down to the manufacturers’ bottom line.
Having a product that is certified as gluten-free, requires companies to adhere to strict manufacturing standards within their facility, as well as routine testing of their products to ensure they are meeting the acceptable limits. All of this costs companies money. So instead, although they may not use gluten in their products, they will add a disclaimer to the label something like “May contain traces of wheat.”
The potential from cross-contamination could come from a number of factors:
- Allowing wheat into the facility via staff lunches or an on-site cafeteria
- Other products that contain wheat are also manufactured in the same facility
For the most part, cross-contamination issues are small, with any traces of gluten found to be less than the “acceptable” limits of 20 parts per million. But if testing is not routinely performed and facility standards are not met, the gluten free label cannot be used.
If you’re someone who’s extremely sensitive to even trace amounts of gluten, then you may want to ensure the peanut butter brand you buy does clearly indicate the gluten-free label.
Below is a list of peanut butter brands that are gluten-free, as per their ingredient list, however may or may not be labeled as gluten-free:
- Peter Pan
- Real Brand
What exactly does the new “gluten-free” labelling law state?
In August 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated their regulations regarding using the term “gluten-free” for food labeling. It states as follows:
The final rule defines and sets conditions on the use of the term “gluten-free” in foods, including:
» Foods that inherently do not contain gluten (e.g., raw carrots or grapefruit juice) may use the “gluten-free” claim.
» Foods with any whole, gluten-containing grains (e.g., spelt wheat) as ingredients may not use the claim;
» Foods with ingredients that are gluten-containing grains that are refined but still contain gluten (e.g., wheat flour) may not use the claim;
» Foods with ingredients that are gluten-containing grains that have been refined in such a way to remove the gluten may use the claim, so long as the food contains less than 20 ppm gluten/has less than 20 mg gluten per kg (e.g. wheat starch);
» Foods may not use the claim if they contain 20 ppm or more gluten as a result of cross-contact with gluten containing grains.
Note: This article refers to pure peanut butters. Those with added flavors (ie. jam, chocolate, etc) have a higher potential for gluten-containing ingredients, so be sure to check the label.