Is Natural Flavoring Gluten Free?

If you are new to the gluten-free diet, you may have read or heard that natural flavors contain gluten.  That is sometimes true, but most often it is not.  Here is some information that I hope will help you when you come across it in an ingredient list.

First, let’s be clear about what terms I’m talking about:

    • Natural Flavoring
    • Natural Flavor
    • Flavoring

From what I have read, wheat, barley, and rye could possibly be used in natural flavor.


In the US, according to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protections Act (FALCPA) wheat cannot be hidden under any flavoring ingredients.  If natural flavor contains wheat, then wheat has to be listed on the label.


Rye is the least likely of the three offending grains to show up in flavoring.  I really didn’t think it ever showed up, but according to Tricia Thompson (see resource 1),

“Rye also could be used in a flavoring but probably will be listed as rye flavoring (which is generally made from rye flour) in the ingredients list or used in a food product you wouldn’t eat anyway, such as a bread product.”


When barley is used in flavors, it would be rare that the term “barley” would not be included on the label.  You would see it listed as “barley malt”, “barley malt extract,” or “barley malt flavoring.”

In fact, any time you see the term “malt,” assume that it is made from barley.  (Maltodextrin is gluten-free though.)

The Consensus

Since wheat has to be declared and barley and rye almost always are declared, natural flavor, natural flavoring, and flavors are generally considered gluten free.

According to Shelley Case (see resource 2),

“For this reason, most experts do not restrict natural and artificial flavorings in the gluten-free diet.”

And Tricia Thompson (see resource 1),

“…unless you see the words wheat, barley, rye, or malt on the label of food product containing natural flavor, the natural flavor probably does not contain protein from these sources.”

Is Rarely Good Enough?

On their ingredients page, Gluten-Free Living states (see resource 3),

“Flavors are rarely made from gluten-containing grains, according to the Flavor Extract Manufacturers Association.”

Based on that and the other uses of words in this post such are “rarely” or “usually,” a person must decide whether they will consume a product that contains natural flavor.

It’s a personal decision for each of us, but here’s a suggestion.  If it is a product that you consume on a regular basis, then call the manufacturer and try to get more information about the flavor or gluten-free status of the product.

Otherwise, rest assured that rare is rare and the natural flavoring is very likely completely safe.


1.  Flavorings and Extracts: Are They Gluten Free? is a great resource by Tricia Thompson on this topic.  Be sure to read what she says about smoke flavoring which can contain gluten.

2.  Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide by Shelley Case is a terrific resource as is her website.

3.  The Gluten-Free Living magazine and website are resources I have depended on for years, especially for information on ingredients.

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  1. Blue says

    Thank you for compiling this information. As with so many other things, I am sometimes unsure because, although I have had my diagnosis for more than two decades, I am pretty new to the US labeling system. Posts like yours really help me. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Janis S. says

    one of the grocery stores I go to has their meat labeled as “beef and natural flavoring”. I wondered why beef would have anything other than beef in it and what the natural flavoring could be. Was told it is salt! So, not buying that beef.

  3. says

    Thank you Linda. I know this kind of reseach can get pretty complicated and time consuming.

    I like the FALCPA food labels and find them very helpful. Even though it only covers wheat as an allergen and not gluten as such I like to be able to look at the label and find wheat in the “Contains” section.

    I had been concerned that certain problem ingredients might be hiding under the guise of “natural flavorings.” Good the hear they can’t — at least if they’re covered under FALCPA. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at the actual law, think I’ll go take another look and see if there’s anything else in it I missed.

  4. Kathleen Conner says

    I’ve learned the hard way to call the manufacturer before I eat anything with “natural flavoring”.

  5. says

    Hi! I realized a year ago my itching was due to anything containing gluten. As I follow this new diet change I have noticed some Natural flavors do contain wheat and are not listed. I will have the itching symptoms start 20 mins to several hours later. This is a letter I received from Golden Plump. They assure me there is no gluten but I have reactions. Please see the letter and see what they wrote about not disclosing the “Natural flavoring” producer ingredients. I feel bad for people being effected by this LIE and hope our system changes!
    Written: 12/4/13

    Good evening Rita,

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

    The All Natural verbiage is used in food industry for labeling of the finished goods. All Natural is used to describe a product that contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is minimally processed. The Gold’n Plump products labeled All Natural are labeled All Natural because there are no added ingredients. We stand behind our product. If we label it All Natural you can rest assure it is All Natural. If we add ingredients and further process the product we do not label it All Natural. We are not trying to hide anything from you or any consumer. We are proud of our product line and want you to know what you are eating. That is why we were first in the poultry industry to list ingredients on our product.

    Now, your question on the natural flavor ingredient. There are several different natural flavorings we use and they vary by product. We do not specifically identify what the “natural flavor” is in the ingredient statement because we do not use these natural flavorings to contribute to or define the flavor. They are used to support the flavor or because of their functionality as an antioxidant. We can ensure that they are all natural and do not contain any allergen. We would not label our product All Natural or Gluten Free if it was not. Unfortunately we can not give out specific information as to what the natural flavor is because that is considered a proprietary information by the vendor we work with.

    We receive many inquiries from consumers concerned with gluten. In viewing all our product lines, we have four items that DO include gluten and are NOT labeled Gluten Free: Chicken Patties, Seasoned Whole Chicken Sweet BBQ. the deli Sweet BBQ flavored Rotisserie and Seasoned Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Fillets Tomato Basil.

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us. We always appreciate the opportunity to answer questions.

    Jane M Kalthoff
    Gold’n Plump Chicken
    [email protected]

    • says

      Thanks for sharing this letter with us. Contacting the company was the right thing for you to do. I’m not familiar with that brand. If it was another type of product, I would think maybe you were reacting to cross contamination and not the natural flavoring. I know that personally I get itching from gluten, dairy, and sometimes almonds. It took me a while to figure that out. The bottom line is that if you react, you need to avoid it. And everyone needs to keep in mind that the new gluten-free labeling law allows up to 20 parts per million in a product. It does not mean zero gluten. Many people, including myself, have reactions to that amount.

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