A few weeks ago I ran this comic at Mimi & Eunice:
I’ve long suspected that soy sauce could contain only small traces of wheat, so I did a little online research. Surprisingly, I found only one item that addressed the gluten content of soy sauce directly, and found it contains none at all:
Gluten analysis of two popular soy sauces
We sent a sample of soy sauce of the brands Kikkoman and Lima to an external laboratory to determine gluten levels. In both samples the gluten content was below detection limit of 5ppm (see report). According to a new European legislation, which will only be fully implemented in 2012, gluten-free foodstuffs should contain less than 20 ppm gluten. The FDA also proposes a limit of 20 ppm. This means that our two tested products may be considered as gluten-free soy sauce. link
The article contains a link to a lab report which appears to be Belgian. It’s strong evidence, but celiac organizations are still claiming soy sauce contains gluten, which leads trolls to leave furious comments at mimiandeunice.com and my Facebook page for daring to suggest otherwise.
I’d like to clear up the soy sauce confusion once and for all. A Belgian lab report makes one data point, but more data points are needed, especially because these substances may differ between the US and Europe. What I’d like is an analysis of several brands of American soy sauce, both conventional shoyu (derived from wheat ingredients) and “gluten-free” tamari. Also both fancy health food store brands, and cheap run of the mill supermarket kinds. What would really be helpful is a brand-by-brand chart the wheat-sensitive could refer to.
So, is there an analytic chemist in the house? A chemistry grad student? A biochem hacker space with time and resources on their hands? I’m certainly not a chemist, but if you produce such a report you’ll have my undying gratitude and whatever publicity I and Mimi & Eunice can muster. Also, you’d be doing good for the world.
P.S. Grain alcohol derived from wheat also contains no gluten:
There has been concern expressed at times about products made from grain alcohol, when the alcohol might be derived from wheat. Because the toxic peptides (in fact all peptides) have low volatility, whereas alcohol produced by grain fermentation has a high volatility, properly distilled alcohol derived from wheat grain will contain no toxic peptides. Consequently, all vinegars made from a base of grain alcohol should be safe and this is true also for alcohol extracts as well, for example, alcoholic extracts of vanilla. In general, it appears that distilled liquors such as vodkas and whiskies should be safe, as well. link
That didn’t stop celiac disease organizations from telling their constituents it did contain gluten. I am wondering why these organizations don’t have various comestibles lab analyzed themselves, but they don’t. It also doesn’t stop people from leaving comments like this on online message boards:
The ONLY alcohol celiacs should drink are: Sorghum based beer, potato vodka, most wines, Rum, Tequila, and pure gin (made from Juniper berries ONLY).
Gin, even “pure gin,” is of course not fermented from juniper berries, it’s grain alcohol flavored with them. A friend of mine who has celiac disease told me she could have gin but not grain alcohol (and she tested on herself to make sure). When I simply Googled “gin” to show her article after article explaining that gin is in fact grain alcohol, she looked confused and stricken.
Personally I don’t think distilled alcohol is particularly healthy for anyone, but folks seem to love it so much they’re willing to drink it even if they have celiac disease. I’d rather drink soy sauce.