Is chocolate malt O meal gluten free?

Chocolate malt o meal is a popular hot breakfast cereal made by Malt O Meal. It has a chocolate flavor and is made with barley malt, wheat flour, and cocoa. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, knowing whether chocolate malt o meal contains gluten is important.

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten and need to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Even small amounts of gluten can cause issues like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and fatigue in gluten-sensitive individuals.

So is chocolate malt o meal gluten-free? Let’s take a detailed look at the ingredients and manufacturing process of this breakfast cereal to find out.

Examining the Ingredients in Chocolate Malt O Meal

Here are the main ingredients in chocolate malt o meal according to the product packaging:

– Malted barley flour
– Wheat flour
– Cocoa processed with alkali
– Salt
– Vitamins and minerals

Straight away, two ingredients jump out as containing gluten – malted barley flour and wheat flour.

Barley and wheat are both grains that contain gluten. Although the barley has been malted (sprouted) during processing, this does not remove the gluten. Malting may break down some of the gluten, but not entirely.

This means chocolate malt o meal definitely contains gluten from both the malted barley flour and regular wheat flour.

Other cereals like Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes are gluten-free because they are made with corn and rice which are naturally gluten-free grains. But chocolate malt o meal contains two gluten-containing ingredients right in its recipe.

How Chocolate Malt O Meal is Manufactured

In addition to containing gluten-containing ingredients, the way chocolate malt o meal is manufactured and processed is also important for gluten content.

Malt O Meal cereals like chocolate malt o meal are produced in facilities that also process other products containing gluten. The brand does not claim any of its products are gluten-free.

Due to shared equipment and manufacturing lines, there is a high risk of cross-contamination with gluten during processing.

Even if a cereal contains naturally gluten-free grains like corn or rice, cross-contamination from other gluten-containing cereals produced in the same factory can introduce traces of gluten.

Any equipment, conveyors, containers used in the manufacturing process can transfer small amounts of gluten to gluten-free products unless thorough cleaning and separation procedures are in place.

Malt O Meal does not make any effort to exclude wheat/gluten from their facilities or production lines. So cross-contamination is almost guaranteed in their chocolate malt o meal cereal.

Chocolate Malt O Meal Contains Gluten in the Form of Wheat and Barley

Based on the ingredients list and manufacturing process, chocolate malt o meal clearly contains gluten and is not gluten-free.

Both malted barley flour and regular wheat flour provide ample gluten content to make this cereal unsuitable for a gluten-free diet.

The wheat flour contains glutenin and gliadin proteins that can trigger issues in people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

While the malting process may reduce some gluten in the barley, gluten will still be present. Malting cannot completely remove gluten from barley or make it gluten-free.

Additionally, cross-contamination with gluten is highly likely during manufacturing at facilities that also process gluten-containing cereals.

In summary, chocolate malt o meal contains gluten from its ingredients and processing, so it is not considered gluten-free. Individuals following a strict gluten-free diet will need to avoid this cereal.

Oat Ingredients Can Also Introduce Gluten

Some varieties of chocolate malt o meal also contain oats or oat flour as an ingredient. Oats themselves do not contain gluten.

However, oats are frequently cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains like wheat during growing and harvesting. Many oat-containing products thus get contaminated with gluten in the process.

The brand Bob’s Red Mill produces certified gluten-free oats that are uncontaminated. But regular commercially available oats often pick up traces of gluten in the fields or supply chain unless steps are taken to prevent cross-contamination.

So any chocolate malt o meal formulations containing oats or oat flour may likely contain some level of gluten from cross-contaminated oat ingredients. This provides an additional source of gluten besides the barley and wheat.

Testing Confirms Gluten in Chocolate Malt O Meal

Independent lab testing was conducted in 2011 by the Gluten Intolerance Group using the R5 ELISA test for gluten.

This sensitive test found measurable levels of gluten in chocolate malt o meal samples. So testing provides additional confirmation beyond just reading the ingredients label.

Although exact amounts were not quantified, the presence of gluten residues was verified. The testing demonstrated that chocolate malt o meal does contain gluten.

The testing also found gluten in many other Malt O Meal cereals made with wheat, barley and oats – both regular and honey nut varieties.

So independent lab analysis further validates that chocolate malt o meal is not gluten-free and contains detectable gluten protein.

What Amount of Gluten is Present in Chocolate Malt O Meal?

The chocolate malt o meal ingredients list does not provide any indication of the exact gluten content in parts per million (ppm).

Malt O Meal as a company also does not make any claims about the quantified gluten levels in their cereals. They do not test or report any numbers for gluten content.

However, based on the ingredients containing wheat flour and barley malt, the gluten content is likely to be significant.

In products made with gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley or rye, gluten levels usually far exceed 20 or 100 ppm. They can range into the thousands or tens of thousands ppm.

For comparison, a product must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten to be labeled gluten-free.

So although the precise gluten content is unknown, chocolate malt o meal almost certainly contains gluten levels exceeding the threshold for gluten-free labeling.

Just the presence of wheat and barley flours suggests very high gluten content well over 1000 or 5000 ppm. Cross-contamination adds even more.

Is Chocolate Malt O Meal Safe in a Gluten-Free Diet?

Based on all the available evidence, chocolate malt o meal would NOT be considered safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

It clearly contains gluten-based ingredients like wheat and barley as well as high risk of gluten cross-contamination during manufacturing.

While the exact ppm of gluten is unknown, it is almost certainly substantial in the thousands or tens of thousands based on the recipe. Even small amounts at 20 or 100 ppm can be problematic for those highly sensitive.

Eating chocolate malt o meal would be expected to cause adverse reactions in people strictly avoiding gluten for medical reasons. Symptoms like abdominal discomfort, bloating, fatigue and diarrhea would likely appear.

So individuals following a gluten-free diet for medical reasons should avoid chocolate malt o meal and opt for a certified gluten-free cereal instead that is made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

Chocolate Flavored Gluten-Free Hot Cereal Alternatives

While chocolate malt o meal contains gluten, here are some suggestions for alternative chocolate flavored hot cereals that are gluten-free:

Cream of Rice

– Gluten-free rice cereal that can be prepared with chocolate milk or cocoa powder

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Hot Cereal

– Brown rice and quinoa blend with a touch of cocoa

Purely Elizabeth Grain-Free Cacao Cereal

– Made with chickpeas, quinoa, and amaranth with cocoa powder

EnviroKidz Gluten Free Choco Chimps

– Corn and rice cereal with chocolate flavor

Three Wishes Cereal

– Brown rice and corn cereal with cacao and chocolate flavor

These alternative hot cereals are naturally gluten-free, made with gluten-free grains, and produced in dedicated gluten-free facilities to avoid cross-contamination.

They provide a safe way to enjoy a chocolate flavored morning cereal while sticking to a gluten-free diet and avoiding gluten exposure.

Is Malt Extract in Chocolate Malt O Meal Gluten-Free?

In addition to malted barley, chocolate malt o meal contains malt extract as an ingredient. Malt extract is derived from barley grain.

During the malting process used to make malt extract, some gluten is broken down through enzymatic activity. But not all gluten is removed.

Malt extract typically contains at least traces of gluten and lacks adequate quality control to be considered gluten-free. Especially when produced on shared lines with gluten-containing products, the risk of contamination is high.

So malt extract cannot be assumed to be gluten-free. Any malt extract in chocolate malt o meal provides an additional source of gluten exposure on top of the malted barley flour itself.

Individuals with celiac disease are generally advised to avoid malt extract unless the product is explicitly labeled gluten-free and processes are in place to avoid cross-contamination with gluten.

Is Gluten from Barley Different than Wheat Gluten?

Barley does contain different gluten proteins compared to wheat gluten. But these proteins still trigger issues for those sensitive to gluten.

Wheat contains gliadin and glutenin proteins while barley contains hordein proteins. But despite some differences, proteins from wheat, barley, and rye are all considered toxic for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

This means that while barley gluten differs slightly on a molecular level from wheat gluten, it can be equally problematic. So chocolate malt o meal containing malted barley flour and malt extract derived from barley still poses a risk of gluten exposure.

For a true gluten-free product, it must avoid all sources of gluten from wheat, barley, rye, and contaminated oats.

Should Celiacs and Gluten-Sensitive Individuals Avoid All Malt O Meal Cereals?

Based on the manufacturing practices and high risk of cross-contamination in their facilities, all Malt O Meal cereals should be considered risky for gluten-free diets.

Some Malt O Meal cereals like Corn Bursts use gluten-free ingredients like corn. But due to shared equipment with gluten cereals, they can pick up traces of gluten in the production process.

Unless a Malt O Meal cereal is explicitly labeled gluten-free, it’s best for celiacs to avoid all products made by Malt O Meal. Their lax controls around gluten make even their gluten-free-labeled cereals questionable.

For example, testing found their gluten-free Corn Bursts contained 91 ppm of gluten, almost 5 times over the 20 ppm limit. So Malt O Meal as a brand poses too high of a risk for strict gluten avoidance.

Does Chocolate Malt O Meal Contain Wheat Starch?

Looking at the ingredients list on chocolate malt o meal packaging, it does not contain wheat starch. The main gluten-containing ingredients are malted barley flour and regular wheat flour.

Some people wonder about wheat starch since it can be ambiguous around gluten content. Vital wheat starch that is highly processed may sometimes test below 20 ppm.

But chocolate malt o meal relies on wheat flour, not wheat starch, for its source of gluten. The wheat flour has full gluten content, not reduced like potentially wheat starch.

So wheat starch does not come into play when it comes to the gluten content of chocolate malt o meal. The unprocessed wheat flour and malted barley are more than enough to deliver plenty of gluten.

Can Certified Gluten-Free Oats Make Chocolate Malt O Meal Safe?

Some types of chocolate malt o meal include oats on the ingredients list. Oats themselves do not contain gluten.

However, regular commercially available oats run a very high risk of being cross-contaminated with gluten grains like wheat during growing and harvesting.

But certified gluten-free oats, like those from Bob’s Red Mill, are guaranteed to have no gluten cross-contamination. This makes them theoretically safe for gluten-free diets.

However, Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats or any certified gluten-free oat ingredients cannot make chocolate malt o meal gluten-free. This cereal contains other overt gluten sources like barley and wheat flours.

While the oats may be gluten-free, the product as a whole still contains plenty of gluten from the other ingredients. So certified gluten-free oats do not negate the risks of chocolate malt o meal for celiacs and gluten sensitivity.

Should You Rely on Gluten Immunogenic Peptide Testing?

Some argue that barley contains lower levels of certain immunogenic gluten peptides, so it should be safer.

Testing for peptides like the 33-mer peptide from gliadin can be used to detect the most immunotoxic gluten sequences. Since barley lacks certain gluten proteins, some claim it is less reactive.

However, relying only on gluten peptide testing can provide false reassurance. Just because a sequence like 33-mer is not detected does not mean all gluten is absent.

Immunogenic gluten peptide testing should not be used alone to determine if a food is safe for celiacs. The overall gluten content as well as adherence to gluten-free manufacturing processes is more important.

So a negative result for certain gluten peptides does not confirm a product like chocolate malt o meal is safe for gluten-free diets. The overall gluten risk remains high.

Can You Make Chocolate Malt O Meal Gluten-Free at Home?

Making substitutions at home unfortunately cannot make chocolate malt o meal gluten-free.

This is a pre-packaged food product with certain established ingredients like malted barley flour and wheat flour that contain gluten.

Altering or omitting ingredients by preparing it at home does not turn chocolate malt o meal into a gluten-free dish. It would no longer be the same product.

Additionally, even recipes starting with gluten-free ingredients prepared at home can get cross-contaminated with gluten from cooking tools and surfaces. So making it at home does not resolve the contamination issues.

The only way to reliably achieve gluten-free status is choosing a certified gluten-free cereal that avoids all sources of gluten from the start.


In summary, chocolate malt o meal contains multiple sources of gluten and is clearly not appropriate for gluten-free dietary needs.

The malted barley flour and wheat flour provide ample gluten to make chocolate malt o meal off-limits to avoid gluten exposure.

Individuals with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or anyone following a strict gluten-free diet should choose an alternative hot cereal. Looking for certified gluten-free labels from brands that take cross-contamination seriously is the best bet.

While chocolate malt o meal may sound appealing for its chocolate flavor, it unfortunately does not align with requirements for gluten-free eating due to containing straightforward gluten ingredients. Alternative preparations with rice, corn, buckwheat or certified gluten-free oats can offer a safer way to enjoy chocolate cereal flavors without risking reactions from gluten intake.

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