Breyers recently announced it would add a gluten-free label to 36 of its ice cream flavors, though the naturally gluten-free recipes remain unchanged. With this addition, Breyers joins a growing list of mainstream companies who have entered the gluten-free marketplace by calling out products that happen to be gluten free.
Over the past few years, Frito Lay chips (which includes Cheetos, Lay’s, Ruffles, Smartfood popcorn and Tostitos), Ore Ida potatoes, Heinz ketchup, Zatarain rice mixes and other large food manufacturers began adding a gluten-free label to many of their products.
Food companies have long said they would be more interested in gluten-free labeling once it was defined by the Food and Drug Administration and that’s what happened with proposed rules that were finalized last August. The FDA ruling says that a product with a gluten-free label must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten, a standard considered safe by many celiac disease experts. Gluten from all sources, including cross-contamination, has to be taken into account.
Nick Soukas, director of ice cream for Unilever, Breyers’ parent company, says Breyers wanted to finalize and implement a validation program that ensured the gluten-free products were not at risk for cross-contamination. The validation process was in the works before the final FDA ruling.
“We’ve been planning to change the Breyers packaging for some time now to include the gluten-free claim on the label,” Soukas told Gluten-Free Living. “With more and more consumers adopting a gluten-free diet, Breyers wanted to help these consumers understand their options within our portfolio by clearly having gluten-free labels where this applies.”
Although Breyers uses its own gluten-free validation program, companies may also apply for a gluten-free certification seal from organizations like the Gluten Intolerance Group, through its Gluten-Free Certification Organization program. GFCO enforces stricter standards than the FDA, requiring products that use its seal to test to 10 ppm of gluten. The Celiac Support Association certifies products that contain less than 5 ppm of gluten for most products that use its seal. Third-party certification provides an extra level of assurance for consumers.
Some consumers think Breyers and other companies using gluten-free labels are only joining the “gluten-free bandwagon” that has evolved throughout the past few years. But as more mainstream companies adopt the gluten-free label, gluten-free consumers are seeing a wider range of options that fit into their lifestyles. And when the new labeling laws go into effect in August, companies that use the label will be held to federal standards.