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Is Rice Dream gluten-free?

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Updated September 29, 2013

Question: Is Rice Dream gluten-free?
Answer:

Technically, yes, Rice Dream (made by a division of Hain Celestial) is considered legally gluten-free, which means it contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. The company, which makes both shelf-stable and refrigerated versions of Rice Dream, along with Rice Dream ice cream, advertises its gluten-free status through a prominent "Gluten-Free" logo on the products' packaging.

But I still advise extreme caution for those considering consuming this popular non-dairy milk.

Rice Dream does not contain any gluten ingredients, but the company uses a gluten ingredient in processing. Specifically, the brown rice syrup in Rice Dream is produced using a barley-based enzyme ... and barley, as we know, does contain gluten.

Well-known gluten-free dietitian Tricia Thompson questioned the company about the use of this barley enzyme, and concluded that the enzyme does not contain enough complete barley protein molecules to register positive on commercial gluten tests (read more about the testing's technical details here).

Thompson's conclusion? "The barley enzyme preparation and rice base used by Hain Celestial in their Rice Dream beverages are gluten free and safe for gluten-free consumers."

However, I have difficulty reconciling this statement with the numerous reports I've read of people reacting to Rice Dream. Lots of people report getting glutened by this product.

Part of the problem could be that the commercial tests for gluten contamination have some difficulty detecting hordein (the type of gluten protein found in barley) when the hordein has been broken down into smaller pieces or protein fragments.

It's also possible that there's not enough residual gluten left in the product for testing to detect (at least not with current tests), but there is plenty for our bodies to detect, especially in people who tend to be sensitive to trace gluten.

Regardless of the reason, I don't recommend Rice Dream for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If you do decide to try it anyway, proceed with caution, and watch yourself for symptoms of a glutening.

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