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Is Brown Sugar Gluten-Free? Important Information You Need To Know Here!

is brown sugar gluten-free

Brown sugar is something that we use almost daily in our lives but is brown sugar gluten-free? Amongst the increasing number of health-conscious individuals these days, many are seeking out healthier alternatives to white sugar. Brown sugar is now used in a variety of recipes, from muffins to pancakes, and as a sweetener for coffee and tea. It can also be found in sauces and gravies, for pasta sauce, marinades and barbeque glaze. 

What is brown sugar? How does it differ from white sugar?

The main difference between brown sugar and traditional white sugar is the presence of molasses. Molasses is the product resulting from the refinement process of sugarcane and sugar beets, and this adds to the distinctive brown colour and toffee-like flavour profile of brown sugar. 

Now, here’s the interesting fact. Although effective sales tactics have led us to believe that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar, the truth is far from that. Indeed, brown sugar has slightly higher levels of potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium, but its health benefits are almost negligible, and it is still relatively low in nutrients. But it is still essential in multiple recipes regardless, and therefore even more important for us to figure out whether it is gluten-free. 

Is Brown sugar gluten-free?

Since brown sugar is essentially white sugar with molasses, yes, brown sugar is gluten-free! 

The common sugar is made up of glucose and fructose from sugarcane or sugar beet, which does not have any gluten in it. Gluten is a protein derived from wheat, barley and rye and can cause mild discomfort to serious side effects for people with gluten sensitivities or gluten intolerance. Gluten must be avoided completely by those suffering from celiac disease. So, if you’re following a gluten-free diet, then, brown sugar as an ingredient (or on its own, because, why not?) is completely safe for you. 

See Also: Is Honey Gluten-Free?

Can Brown sugar be cross contaminated with gluten?

Most brown sugar packaging does not contain the ‘gluten-free’ label because it only contains two ingredients – granulated sugar and molasses. Therefore, it is naturally gluten-free. But in reality, there is a potential for cross-contamination. Brown sugar could be manufactured and packaged in a facility that processes other gluten-containing products. Also, the same equipment used to process gluten products could even be the same ones used for brown sugar. This makes it essential for those with gluten intolerance to consume brown sugar which has been certified ‘gluten-free’. 

Gluten-free vs. Certified gluten-free

What’s the difference between a product that has a ‘gluten-free’ label vs. one which states ‘certified gluten-free’? Could there be a printing error? Are they both ‘equally’ gluten-free? As someone suffering from gluten intolerance, which should I buy? 

FDA Regulations

Thankfully, manufacturers cannot simply indicate on the label ‘gluten-free’ just because they think it is. There are strict regulations that govern whether something can be labelled ‘gluten-free’ or not. Although it is voluntary on the manufacturers’ part to choose to use the ‘gluten-free’ label on their packaging, by choosing to use it, manufacturers are deemed to have followed certain guidelines. 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the food must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Even though this is regulated in the U.S., other countries and international bodies similarly use this criterion, as most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten, and 20 ppm is the threshold. If a food fails to meet this requirement but a manufacturer nevertheless chooses to use the label ‘gluten-free’, then, they will be subject to regulatory action by the FDA.  

Certified Gluten-Free 

But for manufacturers who want to provide an additional layer of assurance to ensure their food is safe for people with gluten sensitivities, then, independent, third-party organisations will provide certified gluten-free status for this peace of mind. There are currently a handful of such organisations, with the Gluten-Free Certification Organisation (GFCO) being the most recognised one, requiring foods to contain less than 10 ppm of gluten to receive the seal of approval. Such stringent requirements provide extra comfort for gluten-sensitive individuals. 

Therefore, although brown sugar is naturally gluten-free, and even if many manufacturers choose not to use the ‘gluten-free’ label on their packaging, it is worth the extra effort to source brown sugar that has the ‘gluten-free’ label. The last thing you’d want is for your sweetened cup of caffeine dose to ruin your Sunday morning. 

See Also: Is Dextrose Gluten-Free?

Gluten-Free Brown Sugar Brands

Many brown sugar brands are gluten-free, some of which you may already be familiar with.

●     Wholesome Dark Brown SugarWholesome’s products are well, truly wholesome. Not only are they gluten-free, but they are also fair-trade certified, USDA organic and kosher certified. The rich flavour from the dark brown sugar goes well in baked goods or for making gravies and sauces. You can also try their light brown sugar to sweeten up your daily latte or Darjeeling. 

●     Domino Dark Brown SugarWith more than 100 years of history, Domino’s Sugar is a household brand name that supplies sweetener needs to households and restaurants. According to their website, Domino Brown Sugar does not contain any gluten. The risk of cross-contamination is also brought to a minimum as their products do not contain and are not packaged on equipment containing any of the 9 allergens identified by the FDA, wheat included. 

●     NOW Foods Organic Dark Brown Sugar: A family-owned company that provides a huge range of supplements and groceries, NOW Foods is a reputable manufacturer offering affordable solutions to people looking for quality products. NOW Foods Organic Dark Brown Sugar is free of artificial preservatives and gluten-free, suitable for all your cooking and beverage needs. 

See Also: Is Cocoa Powder Gluten Free?

Conclusion: Is Brown Sugar Gluten-Free?

Brown sugar can be found in almost anything that we eat or drink. And in all sense, brown sugar is naturally gluten-free because it is essentially white sugar, with molasses. There is nothing non-gluten about this. It is also universally assumed that brown sugar is gluten-free – a quick search on the internet will yield almost this answer. However, for individuals navigating the gluten-free world where assumptions serve little confidence, it is worth the effort to source brown sugar that is labelled ‘gluten-free’. Even if it does cost a little more, that extra premium to safely sip your daily latte is nothing compared to the peace of mind. 

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