So you can imagine my surprise when I read the ingredients of Quaker's new Muller yogurt and discovered most varieties and flavors contain wheat. It's clearly labeled at the end of the ingredients list in a "Contains" statement. So while this is surprising, it's surely not hidden.
The company says modified food starch is the source of wheat in all flavors of Corner and Fruit Up products. Also, all flavors of Greek Corner Yogurt contain modified wheat starch except Honeyed Apricot, which has modified food starch made from corn. A few products with granola or cereal also contain wheat flour, which is listed on the label.
The Muller brand originated in Europe where wheat starch and modified wheat starch are used much more commonly than in the US. The products introduced to the US market by Quaker continue to be made in Germany, although a US plant is under construction. It's not yet clear whether there will be a change in formulation once the US plant opens.
Wheat starch has been allowed in gluten-free foods in Europe for a number of years. Muller notes that many of its yogurt products contain no more than 20 parts per million of gluten in accordance with European Commission regulations for products labeled gluten free.
The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a similar standard for products labeled gluten free in the US, but the standard still doesn't have final approval. Meanwhile products that contain wheat starch cannot be labeled gluten free.
The proposed rules would allow foods with an ingredient made from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove the protein harmful to those who have celiac disease to be labeled gluten free. However, it's not completely clear whether wheat starch or modified wheat starch would fall into that category.
The FDA has said it will finalize a gluten-free definition "as soon as possible," but it's unlikely to happen before the end of the year.
US allergen labeling laws passed in 2004 do require that any wheat used in a product has to be noted on the label. It can either appear as part of the ingredient listing, for example modified wheat starch, or at the end of the ingredients list in a "Contains" statement as in the Muller yogurt.
Since modified wheat starch is currently not considered gluten free in the US, those who follow the gluten-free diet are advised not to eat products that contain it. That means most of the Muller products in your supermarket are off limits.
And it's another reminder that no matter how familiar you are with the ins and outs of the gluten-free diet, you always have to read labels.