Gluten is a type of protein found in different kinds of grains like wheat, barley, rye, etc. It can be easily digested by healthy people. However, people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance may experience adverse gastrointestinal problems and even life-threatening anaphylaxis allergic reaction after the intake of gluten-containing foods.
In most cases rice does not contain gluten. Presented below is a detailed discussion on whether rice is gluten-free.
Does rice contain gluten?
- All forms of plain rice, including polished white rice, whole grain brown rice, exotic black rice, as well as long grain basmati rice are regarded as being gluten free.
- Wild rice blends are also thought to be gluten-free. It is however better to check for gluten content in such rice, especially at restaurants, as some forms of wild rice blend may contain gluten-rich barley grains.
- Glutinous rice, also called sweet rice or sticky rice, is also considered to be gluten-free. The name does not mean that the rice contains gluten; ‘glutinous’ only means that the rice tends to become sticky or glue-like after it is cooked.
- Prepared rice mixes generally tend to contain gluten, often in wheat form.
- People who are allergic to vinegar made from gluten-containing grains should also make sure that such vinegar is not used in rice meals. For example, most sushi rice preparations at Japanese restaurants use grain-derived vinegar as an ingredient.
- Pre-packed rice available in varied flavors is another common source of gluten from rice. For example, rice which has barley-derived flavoring.
- Rice or rice products may also be subject to contamination with gluten grains and gluten products during processing, storage, etc. Hence, check the label of such packaged products to verify if it has such contamination issues. It is best to go for rice products that have gluten-free certifications on the label.
Different forms of gluten contamination of rice
- Contamination of rice during packaging/storage: Contamination of rice with gluten can occur at shops. For instance, gluten can seep into packages of rice if they are stored or placed in a shelf directly below another shelf containing gluten products like baked goods, flour, dry drains, or bread. There is no way to verify whether or not rice in bulk bins has been contaminated with other gluten grains. Hence avoid them. It is always best to go for plain varieties of rice as seasoned or flavored packaged rice can have traces of gluten.
- Contamination of rice in the kitchen: Contamination of rice with gluten can occur in the kitchen when rice touches something that was previously in contact with gluten-containing grains. For instance, contamination of rice with gluten can occur when you use a spoon for scooping gluten-rich crotons and then use it to scoop rice. It can also occur when a bowl used to knead wheat flour is used again to place rice without first completely cleaning the bowl. Such contamination is most common in restaurants and commercial kitchens. It is therefore vital for people with gluten sensitivity to always inform the waiter/waitresses about your allergy as well as verify with them about the possibility of such contamination in the kitchen.
- Gluten contamination of rice at home storage facilities: Just like contamination of rice can occur at a grocer’s storage or display areas, rice can get contaminated with gluten at home as well. Create a separate section in the pantry that is completely free of gluten-containing foods. In case you are unable to do so, then ensure that rice is not stored in a shelf below foods with gluten as an ingredient. The same goes for storage in a refrigerator. It is easy for breads, etc. to fall into a bowl of rice in a refrigerator and contaminate it.
- Contamination with different sauces: There are several rice dishes that use varied sauces as an ingredient. It may be noted that many of these sauces contain gluten grains as an ingredient. For example, a wheat-derived starter is often used in making soy sauces. Teriyaki sauce and other condiments and sauces based on soy sauce also pose similar risks of gluten contamination. Thus, when you buy food in bulk at takeaways, it is likely for the packaging to get contaminated with varied sauces including soy sauce. So ensure that such food packaging is free from such contamination. You may also make use of gluten-free sauces when making rice dishes at home.
As per the FDA in the US, a product cannot be termed as being gluten-free unless it has less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Also, food and processed eatable manufacturers have to declare on the label whether or not their products have been made in a plant which also processes wheat. Thus, even though rice inherently does not have gluten, it is best to check the label of processed rice foods to ensure that it fully devoid of gluten.