Tea vs Gluten: brands known to be safe, unsafe, unknown?

I know that generally, black tea would never have wheat in it, but I do know that some brands’ packaging lines have barley (esp. if they’ve got Mugicha) or oat (herbal blends), and “natural flavorings” can be just about anything. Herbs add risk, because the more ingredients are in a product, the more chances there are of something going wrong. There’s a longstanding rumor in the Gluten-Free community that tea companies use wheat paste glue to seal teabags. I don’t know where to verify that.

I know that Republic of Tea has GF certification, Celestial Seasonings marks their boxes (Roastaroma and Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride have barley), and Bigelow talks about celiac disease on their FAQ and marks their boxes GF. Stash gets signed statements from the ingredient suppliers stating that all ingredients purchased are GF. Harney (customer rep on the phone) says none of their products have gluten. PG Tips (on the phone) says if their tea had gluten, it would be on the label.

In less-certain, Twinings FAQ says “tea alone does not contain gluten” and Clipper says “We work very hard to minimise the risk of gluten getting into our products, so we can say there’s no gluten in our drinks.” PepsiCo suggests PureLeaf and Lipton Bottled Tea would be safe: “While we don’t currently make gluten-free label claims, none of the ingredients in our products are derived from grains or flours”

In contrast, I emailed Murchie’s and was told that they package cookies too close to the tea packaging line for them to feel like a GF customer would be safe with their products.

My question:
I cannot find clear information about Kusmi Teas or Fortnum & Mason. Have any of you phoned manufacturers recently and ruled these or other brands in-or-out of your consumption?

6 Replies

I can’t answer your question about Kusmi or Fortnum & Mason specifically, but as someone working within the tea industry I can provide some insight in regard to the concern that natural flavouring or other flavouring types could contain gluten.

Full transparency that my experience pertains only to regulations within Canada – so the following may not necessarily be true of other parts of the world.

As you probably know, gluten is considered a priority allergen and there are strict regulations surrounding how it must be labelled on product packaging/ingredients lists. Though the recipes of flavourings are generally not disclosed in a consumer facing way, they still need to abide by the same regulations in regards to labelling. As an example, I’ve seen tea blends with “Contains dairy/milk” statements because the flavouring was derived from dairy/milk and others that have carried “May contain egg” statements because there was a possibility of egg trace within the flavouring itself. Same thing with dairy. So, any flavouring derived from barley/rye/malt or other sources containing gluten legally must list it as an allergen in the blend.

Of course, even if the blend is gluten free, that doesn’t do you a whole lot of favours if the facility its produced in still has a gluten risk. But at least better than nothing??

There are a few teas here in Fukuoka I’ve found that mix Mugicha into other teas interestingly enough. But that would no doubt make the tea gluten based. I love Mugicha but I need to stay away from such things.

In the US, I do not believe gluten is a priority allergen—it’s not in our Top 9. A product can be packaged on a line with barley and no label mention is needed.

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Most people alive today are allergic to gluten actually. You can blame GMO for that one.

It’s under reported no doubt on purpose. A lot of peoples illnesses vanish when they cut it from their diet.

Might be a financial reason behind it… you know, similar to the other garbage that was pushed on us pretty recently (It’s on it’s way back because it’s ElectionOmnicron Season again).

Arby said

“Most people alive today are allergic to gluten actually. You can blame GMO for that one”

This is not true. Please don’t spread medical misinformation.

Gluten is a common allergy and intolerance and we can recognize its seriousness and significance without making sweeping statements about most people being allergic. The vast majority of people do not have reactions to prick tests and have no noticeable inflammation markers in blood tests after ingesting gluten. GMOs are also not related to gluten? I don’t know where you got that from but consumption of GMOs does not contribute to allergies or gluten intolerance. The only exception is when proteins from nuts are added to other crops to increase protein content, but this is not true of commercially available GMO crops. Only a few plants are genetically modified and only a few genes are modified in crops allowed to be ingested by humans. This is quite well studied. Let’s not fear monger and instead stick to what is verifiable by peer reviewed studies.

If you want to read more, these reviews are really well written for all audiences to understand (less scientific jargon)



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I dug into Fortnum and Mason to find what I consider a garbage CYA: “Our Tea Buyers advise that all our teas are produced without gluten, however, we cannot guarantee gluten-free as these may have been produced in an environment handling gluten.”

So…this means “and we don’t bother with safety and so you’d best go elsewhere”.

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