Is Hemp Safe to Eat When You're Gluten-Free?

Hemp hearts

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Hemp — a very close but non-psychoactive relative to the cannabis plant known as marijuana that has gained a reputation as a health food in recent years — is gluten-free in its pure form. It's not at all closely related to the gluten grains wheat, barley, and rye.

But unfortunately, that's not the end of the story for hemp, which is a valuable source of fiber, magnesium and essential fatty acids. So with all this versatility and nutrition contained in hemp, what's the catch when it comes to the gluten-free diet?

The catch with hemp, as with so many other grain and grain-like products, is that hemp frequently is grown in rotation with other crops, including gluten grains (especially wheat). And farmers frequently use the same equipment to harvest, store and transport hemp as they do those gluten grains. That's how hemp can get contaminated.

It's not guaranteed that hemp will be cross-contaminated with gluten, of course. Unfortunately, there's a pretty good chance of it. A few studies have found traces of the gluten protein in samples of hemp flour, in at least one case well above the U.S. legal limit of fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten.

So What Can You Do to Enjoy Hemp?

In order to avoid this gluten problem, you should look for hemp product manufacturers who take the extra step of making sure their sources of hemp are as "clean" as possible when it comes to gluten.

Avoid hemp-based products that don't reference gluten (or manufacturers who openly admit they can't guarantee they meet gluten-free standards). Instead, you should stick with products labeled or certified "gluten-free." Makers of products that are labeled gluten-free must meet legal standards of less than 20 parts per million of gluten, and manufacturers of products that are certified gluten-free are supposed to take extra steps to ensure the raw materials they use are free of cross-contamination.

This won't guarantee the gluten-free-ness of everything hemp you eat, but it should help. Here are the couple hemp products labeled gluten-free:

  • Pacific Foods hemp milk. This "milk" comes in plain, unsweetened plain, vanilla, unsweetened vanilla, and chocolate. Like Pacific Foods' other boxed non-dairy milk products (with the exception of its Oat and 7-Grain "milks"), the company's hemp milk is labeled gluten-free. If you're particularly sensitive to trace gluten, you should be aware that the company makes all its milks — including the wheat- and barley-containing 7-Grain products — on the same equipment as the hemp milk.
  • Rejuvenative Foods hemp butter. This seed butter, like Rejuvenative Foods' other nut and seed butters, is produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility, and Rejuvenative Foods considers it to be gluten-free. However, the company doesn't test the raw ingredients for gluten, so I'd exercise some caution.

As hemp becomes more popular, we may see more hemp-based products that are specifically sourced to be safe for those of us with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Until then, be extra careful with hemp and hemp-based foods.

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