Ask Shelley Case: Do Spices, Herbs & Seasonings Contain Gluten?

Question: I love to use spices, herbs and various seasoning blends to spice up my food… but I heard they may contain gluten! Help!

Answer: A wide variety of spices and herbs are used in foods for flavoring purposes. American and Canadian food regulations differ in how they define the terms spices, herbs and seasonings. Here are some facts about the gluten-free status of these ingredients.

Spices, herbs and seeds do not contain gluten

Although anti-caking agents may sometimes be added to spices, it is often silicon dioxide, calcium silicate or sodium aluminum silica and NOT wheat flour or wheat starch. Some imitation black peppers contain other ingredients such as buckwheat hulls and ground rice in addition to black pepper. I have not found any companies using wheat as a filler in imitation pepper.

Seasonings may contain gluten

In general terms “seasonings” are a blend of flavoring agents (spices and/or herbs) which are often combined with a carrier agent such as salt, sugar, lactose, whey powder, starches or flours. The carrier agent in seasoning mixtures in gravy mixes, sauces and snack foods often contain wheat flour or wheat starch.

If a seasoning mixture/blend is sold separately as a bottled or packaged seasoning(e.g., Cajun Seasoning, Taco Seasoning Mix, etc.) the components of all the ingredients must be declared on the label. When a seasoning mixture is used in other foods it may only say “seasoning” on the label and not indicate its components. However in the USA, the FDA’s “Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act” requires that all components of ingredients when used in other foods must be declared if they contain any of the top eight allergens (including wheat). So if wheat flour or wheat starch was used in a seasoning blend it would have to be listed as “seasoning (wheat flour or wheat starch)” or “seasoning” and at the end of the ingredient list “Contains Wheat”. Also, whenever the term “seasoning” is used in the ingredient statement of a meat or poultry product, its components must be identified as a sublist.

It should be noted that, in Canada, seasoning, spice or herb mixtures, when used as ingredients in other foods are exempt from a declaration of their components. Although it is not currently required by regulation, Health Canada strongly urges manufacturers to declare components of ingredients such as seasonings if they contain allergens or gluten sources. Fortunately many companies are voluntarily labeling the components of seasonings when used in other foods. Also, Health Canada has proposed new labeling regulations entitled “Schedule No 1220- Enhanced Labelling for Food Allergen and Gluten Sources and Added Sulphites” that would make it mandatory to declare allergen and gluten sources.

The Bottom Line

If gluten sources such as wheat flour or wheat starch are used in a seasoning mixture/blend, it must be declared on the label of products sold in the USA. Although it is not yet mandatory in Canada, most companies do declare the source of the seasoning blend if it contains an allergen or gluten source. However, if a food product in Canada lists “seasonings” on a food label it is recommended to contact the company to ask if wheat is used as the carrier agent.

The above information was adapted from Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide, Revised and Expanded Edition by Shelley Case, RD. Case Nutrition Consulting Inc.

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16 Responses to “Ask Shelley Case: Do Spices, Herbs & Seasonings Contain Gluten?”

  1. Sara Says:

    THis was very helpful! I am very meticulous in checking labels and try to get all the information I can get, but the “spices” and “seasonings” listings still were confusing me. I’m glad to know for certain what those terms entail!

  2. Sue Brundige Says:

    My husband bought store brand ground cinnamon. Because it was so cheap, I decided to check it out for fillers. I called and they send me a very nice letter indicating that it did “contain partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil in addition to the cinnamon”. I can’t do soy, so the store took it back. I now grind my own from cinnamon sticks and it tastes much better too!

  3. bernadette r. Says:

    Now I know why ground cinnamon is so cheap! I always wondered how they could give you so much for so little. thanks for the info.

  4. Kathleen Reale Says:

    Grinding your own cinnamon sounds so good! I think I have a few cinnamon sticks left over that I used as hot drinks “stir sticks” during the holidays… I think I’ll grind some up and sprinkle on top of my glutne-free oatmeal tomorrow morning! Yum!

    Be Free!

  5. Joyce M. DonatelLI Says:


  6. Martha Istvan Says:

    Thank you for the info on gluten in spices and herbs. As a celiac, I need to be aware of gluten ingredients. A far more difficult problem for me is corn-derived ingredients in nearly everything processed: foods, medications, body care products, etc. Have you suggestions for where I might find detailed information?

  7. Kathleen Reale Says:


    Try visiting Navan Foods ( they are a great resource for discovering and purchasing allergen-free foods – including corn!

    If you have any questions, ask the owner Jennifer. She is FaNtAsTiC!

    Hope this helps!

    Be Free!

  8. Mary Lawler Says:

    Thank you! Very informative!

  9. Amanda Says:

    I’ve noticed many products containing modified food starches, including spices and seasonings, yet they don’t claim to contain any wheat. I’ve also come across a few items marked Gluten Free yet they contain modified food starches. Does anyone have any clarification on this? My doctor along with the Celiac Disease Foundation consider Modified Food Starch to be glutenous. (See this link

  10. TK Says:

    I know that it is FDA required, but there is not currently any real enforcement. I am very careful with meat, as many indicate that they contain broth, but do not list components. Often when I call the company the broth contains either soy or wheat, both of which we avoid. How is it that this is able to slide by? I must say though, that the customer service teams answering calls now are much better educated and able to give answers about ingredients and allergens than they were a few years ago. Progress may be slow, but it is still a thing to celebrate.

  11. Shelley Case Says:

    In the USA, if modified starch was derived from wheat it MUST be declared as modified wheat starch or modified starch (wheat) or Contains Wheat in the ingredient list. The FDA’s Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires the top 8 allergens (which includes wheat) to be declared on the food label- so if it just says modified food starch it could come from corn or other starches but not wheat.

    It should be noted that meat, poultry, fish and egg products are regulated by the USDA and the FDA food allergen regulations do not apply to these products. So it is possible that a meat product could list modified food starch and not indicate the source of the starch which could be wheat. However, USDA is working on allergen labeling regulations and they report that many manufacturers are voluntarily declaring allergen sources on the food label of meat, poultry, fish and egg products.

    The current Canadian Food and Drug Regulations does not require the source of modified food starch to be identified. However, Health Canada’s proposed regulation called “Enhanced Labelling for Food Allergen and Gluten Sources and Added Sulphites” requires all gluten sources including wheat, rye and barley to be declared on the label. Fortunately many manufacturers are voluntarily complying with this proposed regulation even though it is not yet mandatory at this time.

  12. Kathleen Reale Says:

    Hi Shelley-

    Thanks so much for this very informative column and also for your reply to help clarify the modified food starch questions!

    Be Free!

  13. Barb Says:

    I love pretzels, but can’t eat them because of wheat and corn intolerance/allergy. Can you recommend a product without wheat and corn.

  14. Shelley Case Says:

    The only 2 gluten-free pretzels on the market that I am aware of are from Glutino and Ener G Foods and both are made with corn starch and potato starch.

    If you are looking for a crunchy, savory snack why not try Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks and Twigs that are made with brown rice, quiona, amaranth, millet, sesame seeds and chia seeds.

  15. Daniel Evans Says:

    Herbs are really useful in getting nutrients naturally, some of them have medicinal properties too.,~`

  16. Lynda shimoda Says:

    I just purchased an issue of “Delight” Gluten Free magazine. I’m assuming it’s an American Magazine.

    In it they have stated that Brewer’s Yeast is safe; that Rice syrup and rice Malt are unsafe. Is this true?

    Also, that mustard powder and yellow mustard may contain wheat. Is this true?

    I cannot find a guide to safe/unsafe ingredients and ingredient lists from the USA celiac assoiciation.
    Do they have one?

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