As a brief overview, yes, all Lifesavers candy varieties are gluten-free as of 2023. Lifesavers does not contain any wheat, barley, rye or other gluten-containing ingredients. The company states that their facilities are free of gluten cross-contamination risks and routinely test products to ensure gluten levels remain below 20 parts per million.
What are Lifesavers?
Lifesavers are small hard candy “gummies” produced by Mars Wrigley Confectionery. They have a distinctive ring shape with a hole in the middle, resembling a miniature life preserver. Lifesavers were introduced in 1912 and come in a wide variety of fruit and mint flavors. Some of the most popular varieties include:
- Original Five Flavors – cherry, lime, orange, pineapple, lemon
- Butter Rum
- Wild Cherry
- Sour Apple
- Sweet Storybook
Lifesavers have a hard sugar shell and soft chewy center. They are colored and flavored with natural and artificial flavors. Lifesavers are sold in roll packs and smaller cellophane-wrapped packs. Some flavors are only available seasonally or are discontinued.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and other related cereal grains. The two main proteins in gluten are:
- Gliadin – gives bread the ability to rise and have an elastic texture
- Glutenin – provides the strength and flexibility of the gluten network
When flour and water are combined, the gluten proteins form elastic strands that give bread dough it’s chewy texture. People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate these gluten proteins. Exposure triggers an autoimmune reaction and damage to the small intestine.
Why check for gluten in candy?
Gluten is found mainly in grains like wheat, barley and rye. So why does a gluten-free claim on candy matter?
Here are some reasons gluten cross-contamination can occur in sweets:
- Flow agents or anti-caking ingredients that contain gluten
- Manufacturing equipment that processes wheat-based products
- Facilities that handle other glutenous ingredients
- Unclean equipment
- Airborne flour particles
Even tiny amounts of gluten from cross-contamination can trigger issues in those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. That’s why verifying the gluten-free status of all foods, including candy, is important.
Are all Lifesavers gluten-free?
Yes, Lifesavers states that all their candy varieties are gluten-free as of 2023. On their website, they write:
“All Mars Wrigley confectionery products that carry the Mars or Wrigley brand names are considered gluten-free to the limit of gluten detection. We do not add any gluten-containing ingredients to our products.”
They also note that their manufacturing facilities are routinely swab tested and found to be below the 20 parts per million cutoff for gluten. This limit ensures foods are essentially free of any traces of gluten.
Analyzing the ingredients list of common Lifesavers also confirms they do not contain wheat, barley, rye or malt – the main sources of gluten.
For example, here are the ingredients for Lifesavers Wild Cherry flavor:
Sugar, corn syrup, citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, palm oil, carnauba wax, white beeswax, soy lecithin (an emulsifier), red 40 lake, blue 1 lake.
Other Lifesavers flavors contain similar ingredient lists with no mention of gluten-based ingredients. They mainly contain different types of sugars, palm oil or cocoa butter, soy lecithin, beeswax, artificial colors, and natural and artificial flavors.
In addition to the product itself being gluten-free, Mars Wrigley also states they adhere to several best practices to avoid cross-contamination in their facilities:
- Routine equipment swab testing
- Thorough sanitation procedures
- Dedicated gluten-free production lines
- Air handling systems that isolate ingredients
- Employee training on allergen protocols
They note that while they take steps to avoid cross-contamination, their products are produced on shared equipment that processes milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and other allergens.
However, with routine diligence and testing, they can assure gluten levels remain minimal.
Varieties that are gluten-free
According to Mars Wrigley and consumer reports, all of the following Lifesavers varieties are gluten-free as of 2023:
Ring-shaped hard candy
- Original Five Flavors
- Wild Cherry
- Sour Apple
- Butter Rum
- Sweet Storybook
- Very Cherry
- Berry Punch
- Island Fruits
- Sour Green Apple
- Cherry Limeade
- Lifesavers Gummies
- Lifesavers Wild Berries Gummies
- Lifesavers 5 Flavor Gummies
- Lifesavers Sours Gummies
- Breath Savers Mints
- Breath Savers Wild Berries
- Breath Savers Wintergreen
- Breath Savers Spearmint
- Ice Breakers Ice Cubes
- Ice Breakers Frost
- Ice Breakers Duo
In contrast, the sugar-free varieties of Lifesavers and other Mars candies are NOT labeled gluten-free. They may contain ingredients derived from wheat/gluten sources. Always check the label if choosing sugar-free options.
Potential for Cross-Contamination
As with any food product, there is always the potential for cross-contamination with gluten due to shared manufacturing equipment. Mars Wrigley does process wheat-based and glutenous products on shared lines.
However, with extensive safety protocols and routine testing, they work to minimize any risk of gluten cross-contamination. The majority of consumer reports also indicate gluten issues are very rare with Lifesavers.
Those with severe celiac disease or wheat allergies should always exercise caution and check with their healthcare provider about tolerable gluten thresholds.
Gluten-Free Labeling Regulations
For a product to be explicitly labeled “gluten-free” in the United States, it must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This cutoff represents the lowest amount that can be consistently detected in foods using current methods.
Being below 20 ppm ensures a product has essentially no trace of gluten and is safe for the majority of those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Some individuals are more sensitive and require complete avoidance of any gluten. For these persons, even gluten amounts below 20 ppm could potentially trigger issues.
Here are some precautions those with gluten-related concerns should take with Lifesavers candy:
- Check labels for wheat-based ingredients with each purchase, as formulations can change over time
- Look for a “gluten-free” label on the package
- Check Mars Wrigley’s informational materials to ensure gluten-free status
- Inquire about any allergy protocols if purchasing Lifesavers from bulk bins
- Contact the company if you have any concerns about gluten cross-contamination
- Consult your healthcare provider if you have celiac disease or wheat allergy before consuming
In general, exercise caution and assess your individual level of sensitivity and risk tolerance when consuming any processed food if gluten is a concern.
Gluten-Free Candy Alternatives
In addition to Lifesavers, many other popular candy brands also offer gluten-free varieties. Here are some alternative gluten-free candies to consider if you need more options or variety:
- Jolly Ranchers
- Werther’s Originals
- Brach’s lemon drops
- Charms Blow Pops
- Tootsie Pops
- Lindt chocolate truffles (certified)
- Haribo gold bears
- Albanese gummies
- Trolli gummies
- Black Forest organic gummies
- SmartSweets gummies
- Enjoy Life chocolate bars
- MadeGood granola bars
- Alter Eco chocolate
- Hu Chocolate
- Pascha chocolate
Always check labels thoroughly and contact the manufacturer if you ever have questions about ingredients or facility protocols to prevent gluten cross-contamination.
Frequently Asked Questions
Could Lifesavers ever contain gluten?
Lifesavers do not contain wheat, barley, rye or other gluten-containing ingredients, according to the Mars Wrigley website. However, the company indicates their facilities do process products with gluten. If equipment is not properly cleaned or containment procedures are not followed, there could be a very small risk of cross-contamination.
Does packaging indicate if Lifesavers are gluten-free?
Lifesavers packages do not contain an explicit “gluten-free” claim. However, all ingredients are listed with no wheat, barley or rye mentioned. Mars Wrigley also provides extensive information online about their allergen procedures and testing showing Lifesavers meet gluten-free standards.
Are sugar-free Lifesavers gluten-free?
No, sugar-free varieties of Lifesavers and other Mars candies are NOT considered gluten-free. They may contain ingredients derived from gluten sources. Always check labels carefully if choosing sugar-free Lifesavers.
Can celiacs eat Lifesavers?
Most people with celiac disease can tolerate Lifesavers, provided they are the regular gluten-containing varieties. However, celiacs should verify the formula with each purchase. Individual sensitivity levels vary when it comes to trace gluten. More sensitive celiacs may want to avoid Lifesavers and other products made on shared lines.
The Bottom Line
Lifesavers are considered gluten-free to a level of 20 parts per million by Mars Wrigley. Independent testing has also found Lifesavers to fall under the gluten-free threshold. While there is always potential for cross-contamination in processed foods, Lifesavers adhere to strict manufacturing policies to minimize any trace gluten and make their products safe for most gluten-sensitive individuals.