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Lindt Chocolate - Gluten Free Facts

Updated on March 28, 2011

Twisted facts from Lindt

Today, much of our population is aware of Coeliac Disease and the need to avoid gluten as a result. Most of us, as coeliacs, would know that even a 'little bit' of gluten should not be consumed on the gluten free diet. We, as diligent coeliacs, tend to avoid products with 'may contain traces of gluten', etc. statements as a precaution to maintaining sound health. We generally don't experiment due to possible dangers but enjoy having a life as well.

A very small portion of the human population (including those affected by Coeliac Disease), however, are aware about how gluten is detected in the laboratory (or how it ISN'T detected, should I say).

Gluten is a generic name for the proteins found in wheat (gliadin), rye (secalin), barley (horedin) and oats (avenin). Gluten, the substance itself , can not be tested for (under the Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) common, currently the most widely used and mainstream for testing allergenic proteins in laboritories). However, the protein fractions of wheat and rye, namely gliadin and secalin respectively, can be tested all the way down to 3-5 parts per million (i.e. 3-5ppm). On the other hand, however, no accurate test is currently available for detecting barley derivatives (particularly barley malt) and oat proteins at this time. More information is available in another article of mine here.

With this knowledge, gained over a substantial period of time, I found it VERY interesting to recently discover on the Lindt FAQs that they seem to "THINK THEY KNOW THE ANSWER!"


The text reads as follows:

[1. Is there gluten or barley malt in Lindt chocolate?

  • At this stage, no Lindt product imported into Australia is marked 'Gluten Free'. Therefore, at this time we cannot guarantee that Lindt chocolate is gluten-free. Couverture contains 0.36% of dried malt extract, a barley derivative, and is specified to contain not more than 100mg gluten in 100g dried malt extract. This means that our chocolate contains a maximum of 0[m2] 0.00036% = 3.6 ppm (parts per million resp. mg per kg) of gluten.]

The following statement, "specified to contain not more than 100mg gluten", is only an assumption. It is NOT a fact. Lindt then continues on, calculating the end figures which result in "a maximum of 3.6 ppm of gluten".

They should not conclude on such matters, as even experts in the Coeliac Research field know VERY LITTLE about the amount of gluten content in the above ingredients (apart from repeated testing trials which possibly reveal a very inconsistent average of ~1000ppm.) So WHAT ON EARTH makes Lindt think that they have the answer? 3.6 parts per million (if this was for REAL) is a rather inviting figure. It is below the level of 20 parts per million (which is deemed as safe by the CSoA). As well as this, it is low on the detection limit of the ELISA test for detectable gluten! I spoke to the Coeliac Society about this and they felt the same way ("nothing they could do about it, though").

And to Lindt, I think your research was flawed and for you to be explaining the outright unexplainable, guaranteeing that none of your products with barley malt extract (as the only gluten-containing ingredient in the product (i.e. excluding products with wheat flour, starch, etc.)) contain more than 3.6 ppm devastates me more than anything else.

I advise my fellow coeliac readers to take heed and be prepared to refrain from consuming ANY Lindt Chocolates (particularly the MILK variety, for that matter) as you currently cannot accurately test barley or oats for gluten! IMPOSSIBLE!


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      Anonymous 2 years ago

      Why the confusion over barley malt extract?

      It is very tricky to test for barley contamination in food. One of the assays (sandwich omega-gliadin ELISA) severely underestimates gluten contamination from barley; the other (sandwich R5 ELISA) overestimates gluten contamination from barley by a factor of 2. And when it comes to testing for gluten in a hydrolyzed product (a product that has been partially broken down), such as barley malt extract, the test that usually overestimates barley contamination may now underestimate it. It really is a confusing situation! Fortunately, there is an assay available for testing hydrolyzed ingredients. It is called the competitive R5 ELISA.

      How much gluten does barley malt extract contain?

      When 3 barley malt extracts were tested for gluten using the competitive R5 ELISA, they contained approximately 320, 960, and 1300 parts per million (ppm) gluten. Taking into account the fact that the R5 ELISA may overestimate barley contamination by a factor of 2, the extracts more likely contained approximately 160, 480, and 650 ppm gluten.

      Obviously, when barley malt extract is an ingredient in a food product, such as breakfast cereals, waffles, and pancakes, the ppm gluten content of the final food product will be far less than the ppm gluten content of the extract. In one study that assessed the gluten content from barley in two breakfast cereals containing barley malt extract, one product contained 795 ppm gluten; the other 171 ppm gluten.

      Might some products containing barley malt extract have less than 20 ppm gluten?

      Maybe. But in order to know for sure that a product containing barley malt extract has less than 20 ppm gluten a manufacturer has to use the best available assay to test their product. Unfortunately, it is difficult to know the best test to use for a given product.

      Thomas Grace, CEO of Bia Diagnostics, a food testing facility in Burlington, Vermont, says the following concerning the use of barley malt extract in gluten-free foods: “In my opinion until there is a reliable method that can detect all hydrolyzed hordeins (the harmful protein in barley) in these extracts and correlate them with minimal reactive thresholds, manufacturers might want to stay away from barley malt extract in gluten free labeled products. We might find that some barley malt extracts are fine for persons with celiac disease, but until we know that for sure and have a reliable method for verification one should proceed on the side of caution.”

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      Johnc989 3 years ago

      Very informative article post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic. geekdfgbkfed

    • infonolan profile image

      infonolan 5 years ago from Australia

      who cares, It's good to hear that you like Lindt Chocolate. It used to be my favourite as well before I went on a gluten free diet.

      The purpose of this hub was to highlight the incorrect claims about gluten content that Lindt is making on their website. If you have any other comments I'd love to hear from you.


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      who cares 5 years ago

      ok, its off your shopping list. I don't care. On the one I ate, it DID have ingredients that are not gluten free, and it stated that!! I know it did because that's why I am stating about what I am stating right now. I love Lindt chocolate, and no one can change it! :)

    • infonolan profile image

      infonolan 6 years ago from Australia

      Couldn't agree more, glutenfreefamily. Unfotunately, Lindt has not responded to a single email that I have sent to them in regards to my concerns. It's a real shame and seeing as though Lindt is an international company, I guess that (even with our strict 'gluten free' legislation in Australia) all sorts of odd foods could come into the country.

      I believe that at least, they should include a "may contain traces of barley" statement below the ingredient list. According to a discussion I had with them over the phone, they only disclose allergens that are known to be anaphylactic in nature when it comes to 'trace amounts'. Unfortunately, there is a risk and I totally believe your husband could have reacted to this.

      Hope all is well again. Cheers, Kelly.

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      glutenfreefamily 6 years ago

      Celiac sufferers spend a lot of time reading ingredients and I agree, that even trace amounts of gluten containing ingredients need to be listed.

      Lindt claims to have no added barley malt to it's white or dark chocolate and they claim to adhere to the strictest manufacturing standards regarding allergens - which basically means nothing at all when it comes to listing ingredients. One website claims "contains no barley malt by nature" - what the heck is that supposed to mean?

      Proof is in the eating. Yesterday, my celiac husband was delighted to notice that the Lindt white chocolate did not state barley malt as an ingredient so he ate a bar. His reaction - text book celiac reaction - spent the rest of the day with severe stomach cramps, etc. And no, it was not anything else he ate.

      Lindt is so off our shopping list.

    • infonolan profile image

      infonolan 7 years ago from Australia

      The legal matters and arguments I present in my articles have little or no complexity. It is simple legal matters in BLACK AND WHITE PRINT that I am complaining about - one's which are NOT being addressed) Yes, I am currently doing a combined degree of Science/Law at the Australian National University in Canberra. I have taken on board, and appreciate, your input.

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      anon 7 years ago

      I'm sorry, but I don't really see a problem here. They are not claiming that their products are gluten-free. In fact, they claim that they are not, by stating that none of their products are gluten-free and by explicitly stating the amount of gluten found in their products. They say that their products contain gluten and are not labeled as "gluten-free". I don't see how anyone reading that would conclude that the products are gluten-free and safe for those of us with coeliac disease.

      Additionally, you make a lot of claims on your website here about "false advertising" and things being "illegal" and about the scientific accuracy of various testing methods. I'm wondering what your credentials are. Do you have a degree in law or science? If so, perhaps you could include that in your biographical information. It would be easier to take some of your complaints seriously if readers knew that you had the educational training required to make judgments on scientific or legal matters.