Just this morning I was on Facebook and I saw a conversation on one of the celiac disease group pages I belong to where someone asked if Lucky Charms was gluten free. That is where the discussion ensued.
I believe the decision is very clear when it comes to plain old Lucky Charms. It is made with oats and oat flour. Unless the oat products are guaranteed gluten free on the label, you should assume they are contaminated with wheat. That is the problem with oats.
Oats are considered a gluten free grain, but the high probability of them either being grown and/or processed with wheat, makes your standard oats not safe for someone who is medically prescribed to be gluten free. We instead, must look for certified gluten free oats (which unfortunately is in a smaller bag at 3-5 times the price). You can read more on this at celiac.com.
Chocolate Lucky Charms Gluten Free?
But let’s look more closely at the Chocolate Lucky Charms. I get why there was a long discussion about this on Facebook. Take a look at the ingredient label below.
Not one gluten-containing grain is listed here. Back in the day, before companies did gluten free labeling, reading a label like this, and making a subsequent phone call is how we determined whether to buy the food.
General Mills has 250 products they label gluten free. But this is not one of them. I called the company today to find out if this was something a gluten free person could purchase. The customer service agent said, “We label gluten free if it is gluten free. If there is no gluten free label on it, we can’t guarantee it is gluten free.” But he didn’t say that there was any gluten (like barley or rye. Wheat would have to be labeled per the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 aka FALCPA) hidden in the ingredients either.
So what does this all mean?
Well General Mills most likely isn’t testing this product for gluten content, is not concerned about guaranteeing the ingredients they get from vendors are also gluten free, or may not process it in a GF environment. As much as it might frustrate us, that is General Mills’s prerogative.
Gluten Free Labeling
At this time, gluten free labeling is not regulated by the government, but as of August 5, 2014, it will be. At that time companies who want to label their products gluten free will have to have them contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This is only voluntary labeling unlike FALCPA which requires the top 8 allergens, like wheat and peanuts, be listed in ingredient listings.
So in the case of gluten free labeling, companies like General Mills can label specific Chex cereals gluten free, but don’t have to label these Chocolate Lucky Charms or even their Kix cereal gluten free, even though the ingredients appear safe for us to eat.
(Sorry for the upcoming double negative)
So should we NEVER buy products that don’t have a gluten free seal on them even though their ingredients appear safe?
That’s a good question. Because the upcoming gluten free label rule is only voluntary for companies, it leaves a gray area where we will always have to make the decision whether to eat something that has gluten free ingredients, but maybe not the label.
My daughter Emma ate Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles long before Post decided to label them gluten free. How is this different from Chocolate Lucky Charms?
Some people choose to only purchase foods that are labeled gluten free. Then this debate may not be an issue for you.
But if you are going to purchase foods that are not labeled gluten free, but appear gluten free in the ingredients, you should at least call the company and double check to ensure something like “natural flavors” doesn’t have some gluten in there. If there is no gluten that you can find, then it is up to you whether you consume it.