Is Barley Malt Extract Gluten Free? Quick Guide to the Barley Malts Here!!

10th June 2019
Blog post

Hands up who doesn’t get whether barley malt extract is gluten free?! Is barley malt vinegar gluten free? How about barley malt vinegar extract?!! Meeee!!!

I used to see the word “barley malt….” in the ingredients list & I just put that food right back on the shelf. You too?! BUT THAT MEANS YOU’RE MISSING OUT!!! Things like Lea & Perrins & Branston Pickle. You CAN have some of these products.

4 Simple Rules:

It’s this simple!!

  1. “Barley” – don’t eat
  2. “Barley Malt Vinegar” – safe to eat
  3. “Barley Malt Extract” – need to check
  4. “Barley Malt Vinegar Extract” – need to check

Explaining the Rules

Quick bit of background – what makes something coeliac safe?

Firstly, let’s quickly explain something… what makes something coeliac safe? When can it be labelled “gluten free”?

The level of gluten has to be less than 20 parts per million. That means that technically a “coeliac safe”/”gluten free” product can contain gluten but its such a tiny tiny tinnyyy amount that its only a problem for people with a totally separate, severe allergy to the grain (barley, rye, oats, wheat or spelt) – nothing to do with the gluten itself!!

To give an example – gluten free Peroni contains barley malt. It is declared coeliac safe and gluten free because the level of gluten in Peroni is less than 20 parts per million, but if you’ve got a totally separate barley allergy, the drink would make you feel unwell.

Rule Number 2

The distillation process for barley malt vinegar means the level of gluten is always less than 20ppm so its coeliac safe.

Rule Number 3 & 4

The level of gluten in barley malt extract & barley malt vinegar extract CAN be coeliac safe but you need to check. You can’t tell whether the product is coeliac safe just by looking at the ingredients list. As a result, you need to do a little extra work.

5 ways to check: 

  1. Look at the food packaging itself
    • Does it say its gluten free? If so, the ingredients must be safe.
    • Still check the label for “may contain” warnings incase there’s a risk of cross contamination in the production process.
  2. Contact the manufacturer


**TEMPORARY CHANGE – Coeliac UK are pushing manufacturers to improve their product labelling. So for now, if a product contains barley malt vinegar/extract and it is coeliac safe BUT they haven’t added a gluten free label to the product, it will temporarily pretend the product is not safe to push them into adding that label!! Now, the only way you’re going to know for sure whether a product is safe is to use method 1 or 2 above **

3. Check on Coeliac UK’s “GF Food Checker” app – click here for info on how to use it

4. Search Coeliac UK’s online “Food & Drink Directory

5. Contact Coeliac UK


Example 1 : Knorr Rich Beef Stock Cubes

  1. Contains “Barley Malt Extract” so we “need to check”.
  2. Luckily, the packaging itself states its gluten free (on the front) and there’s no “may contain” warnings, so its safe!
  3. You can also scan it into the Coeliac UK app (click here for a guide on how to use it)/search the online directory and you’ll see a smiley face to show its safe.
barley malt
barley malt

Example 2: Co-op Diet Cola

  1. Contains “Malted Barley Extract” so we “need to check”.
  2. There’s no “gluten free” on the label
  3. I scanned it on the Coeliac UK App and it said it was not safe (indicated by the little sad face in the picture below!)
coeliac uk app

Example 3: Jack’s Corn Flakes

  1. Contains “Barley Malt Extract” so we “need to check”.
  2. It doesn’t state gluten free anywhere on the packet
  3. But after a quick search on the Coeliac UK app, it says its gluten free barley and safe!
coeliac uk app

Are you a new coeliac? There’s tons more blog posts here !!

Or you can check out my guide on how to use the Coeliac UK app here

**Note: not a doctor or any kind of healthcare professional, but I’ve spent ages reading up on this topic & spoke to Coeliac U.K. to check I’ve properly understood it before I shared my new found wisdom with you lovely lot.** 


  • Fiona

    11th June 2019 at 1:04 am

    Thanks! Even after 20 years I’m never totally sure. Now I just need to remember this advice. ?

  • Marianne

    11th June 2019 at 3:06 pm

    I was diagnosed as a coeliac 15 years ago. At the time I was told certain breakfast cereals (Rice Krispies specifically) were safe for me. It took me a couple of years to work out that my symptoms not subsiding completely were due to the supposed below safe levels of the barley malt extract in the cereal. I would advise all coeliacs to tread very carefully in this area. They are constantly reviewing and changing advice for coeliacs. Various products that were supposedly safe (and I knew they weren’t as they made me sick) including marketed GF breads have since been withdrawn in the last 15 years as what are deemed to be acceptable levels of gluten have been revised. If you do try a product containing malt I urge you to be certain that nothing else you consume at the same time is a risk so that if symptoms appear you can very quickly identify the source.

  • Gabrielle – coeliacgirl

    28th June 2019 at 10:09 am

    This was sooo helpful – thanks!!

  • Gill

    13th October 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Who new?! This is so useful as there are so many products I wouldn’t touch because of barley malt!
    Thank you! X

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