Eco-Friendly Straws and Gluten

By Francie Kelley, Executive Director, Celiac Kids Connection

For those with celiac disease (CD) the current movement against plastic straws could have some unintended consequences.

One of our members, Julia, recently found herself in café with friends. They ordered smoothies. The kids got their drinks first and Julia was surprised that the kids were eating the straws. To her horror she learnt that these were pasta straws; made from wheat pasta. Luckily, she had time to change her order to – No Straw.

All of us are concerned with the health of our planet. Anytime we can do something to reduce waste or use more environmentally friendly products; it is a GOOD THING. But a number of the newer non-plastic straws are made from gluten containing products. Those of us with CD or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) need to know not only the ingredients of the drink but also the ingredients of the straw that is served with the drink.

Common use of straws came about in the 1800s and the straws were actually made of straw. They were stalks of rye. The rye broke down in the drink adding a gritty sediment and in 1888 the paraffin coated paper straw was patented. During the 1960s the more durable plastic straws began to be used. By the mid-1970s, they completely replaced paper straws.

Today there are concerns about the amount of plastics in our oceans and that plastic straws are difficult to recycle. There is a move to eliminate plastic straws and replace them with more environmentally friendly materials. These materials include gluten-free options like stainless steel, glass, silicone and paper. But, there are also straws made from materials that contain gluten. These include

  • Straw straws; the most common is made from wheat stems
  • Pasta straws
What is someone with CD or NCGS to do?
  1. Limit your use of straws – A lot of the time you do not really need the straw. Think first and if you do not need a straw ask for your drink to be served without one.
  1. Make sure you know the ingredients of the straw – When you order a drink, ask what type and what brand of straws are being used. This will allow you to verify the straws ingredients and ensure its gluten-free status.
  1. Bring your own straw – there are a lot of reusable straws available for sale. This is a great option for a kid who does not want to stand out from their friends by asking about the type of straw being used. You can be one the “cool kids” who brings a reusable straw.
  1. Be vigilant – Straws are likely the tip of the iceberg. We are starting see a push for more eco-friendly tableware products. There are “natural” options to replace plastic plates, cups and even napkins. Often these products have a gluten containing component.

7 Comments on “Eco-Friendly Straws and Gluten”

  1. Please provide a source for this info – I haven’t been able to find anything that says paper straws contain gluten.

    1. As far as we know, paper straws do not contain gluten. The article does not state that and we had no intention to imply that paper straws are an issue.

      What we do want is for people to use caution with plastic straw alternatives. There are a number of different types of alternatives to plastic straws and some of them do contain gluten. As the article states “Make sure you know the ingredients of the straw – When you order a drink, ask what type and what brand of straws are being used. This will allow you to verify the straws ingredients and ensure its gluten-free status.”

  2. All of this is absolutely ridiculous, I think. I have Refractory celiac disease 2 and I must be so careful…. now straws!! Straws are not the issue of the environment.

    1. Straws are a huge environmental issue, and I agree it sucks that we have to add another product to a long list of things to avoid. But better safe than sorry, not only for us but for the animals endangered by the plastics and drinking straws that are causing harm. I just carry my own stainless steel straw and save the guess work.

    1. To my knowledge plastic is not made from any gluten containing materials. Natural plates, forks etc. made from wheat straw may contain gluten. It is important to check with the manufacturer of the product. If they make a gluten-free (GF) claim, I would ask them to explain why the product is considered GF. What precautions do they take to ensure that the gluten containing part of the wheat is not in the product? What testing they do to ensure the final product is GF?

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