Smoke flavoring is an artificial flavoring found in a wide variety of foods known for their smoky flavor. Foods such as bacon, dry rubbed chicken, and turkey chili are just a few examples that may have smoke flavoring in the ingredients. Wondering if smoke flavoring is gluten-free? It’s important to know that smoke flavoring can be created using barley malt flour. So before you chow down on your plate full of BBQ (or plate full of bacon – no judgement), read on for more details on the safety of smoke flavoring.

Is smoke flavoring gluten-free?

Malted barley flour may be used as part of “dry smoke flavoring” in foods such as bacon, dry rubbed barbecue meats, and turkey chili. The good news is that in the U.S., the USDA regulates meat, poultry, and egg products. If malted barley is used as part of the dry smoke flavor, then it MUST be listed in the ingredients. If you’re living or traveling outside of the U.S., it’s important to check the packaging or contact the manufacturer to clarify their smoke flavoring. Here in the U.S., smoke flavoring must be declared in the ingredients statement on the meat or poultry product labels.

For example, if bacon has smoke flavoring made by barley malt, it will be noted as barley malt. It’s imperative that you check the label on every product – every single time.

Look for the words smoke flavoring: Some dry smoke flavoring may use malted barley flour as a carrier for the smoke. If this ingredient is in a meat or poultry product (regulated by the USDA), any barley ingredient used in the smoke flavoring will be listed in the ingredient’s list by its common or usual name” [i.e. malt]. Via Beyond Celiac and the Gluten-Free Dietitian.

Who monitors the safety of food additives in meat and poultry products?

Before any substance can be added to food, its safety must be assessed in a stringent approval process. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shares responsibility with FDA for the safety of food additives used in meat, poultry, and egg products.

All additives are initially evaluated for safety by FDA. When an additive is proposed for use in a meat, poultry, or egg product, its safety, technical function, and conditions of use must also be evaluated by the Risk, Innovations and Management Staff of FSIS, as provided in the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, the Egg Products Inspection Act, and related regulations.

From the USDA Food Standards & Labeling Policy Book


The use of smoke flavoring (natural or artificial) in a component of a meat or poultry food product, e.g., ham in a ham salad, does not require that the product name be qualified to indicate the presence of the smoke flavoring. However, the smoke flavoring must be declared in the ingredients statement on the meat or poultry product labels. 

Secondary product – when meat and extender product is produced using a meat product in which smoke flavoring is added, the secondary product name does not have to be qualified with a phrase as “smoke flavoring added.”

When smoke flavor (natural or artificial) has been directly added to a product as part of a seasoning mix, the presence of the smoke flavor must be identified in a qualifying statement to the product name, e.g.

  1. “Chicken soup smoked flavor added,” and in the ingredients statement.
  2. “Beef soup smoke flavor.”
  3. If a product is simply sprayed with liquid smoke, it must be labeled “smoke flavoring

Deciphering hidden artificial flavors and additives can be frustrating. Try to keep the end goal in sight — not to get glutened. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance or have been gluten-free for years, you’ve got to train your brain to read those ingredient labels every single time. Product formulations can change at any time, so protect yourself and your gut!

Now where’s my plate of bacon?!

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