Fruit Roll-Ups are a popular fruit snack made by General Mills. They are thin sheets of dried fruit puree that are rolled up into a log shape. Fruit Roll-Ups come in a variety of flavors like strawberry, cherry, grape, and tropical blend. They are a convenient on-the-go snack that both kids and adults enjoy. However, for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, determining if Fruit Roll-Ups are safe to eat can be confusing. This comprehensive guide will examine if Fruit Roll-Ups are celiac friendly and provide suggestions for gluten-free fruit leathers.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. In individuals with celiac disease, the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten and attacks the intestine, causing inflammation and damage to the villi – the tiny finger-like projections that line the intestine and absorb nutrients. This damage leads to an inability to properly absorb nutrients from food. Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disease that affects approximately 1% of the population worldwide.
Symptoms of celiac disease may include digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, gas, and bloating. However, celiac disease can also cause symptoms outside of the digestive system including fatigue, joint pain, headaches, skin rashes, anemia, and even infertility. The only treatment for celiac disease is following a strict gluten-free diet by eliminating all foods and products containing wheat, barley, and rye. Most people with celiac disease see an improvement in symptoms and intestinal healing when switching to a gluten-free diet.
Diagnosing celiac disease
Celiac disease is diagnosed through blood tests and an intestinal biopsy. Common blood tests look for antibodies related to celiac disease such as:
- Tissue transglutaminase IgA (tTG-IgA) – screens for antibodies to tissue transglutaminase
- Deamidated gliadin peptide IgG (DGP IgG) – screens for antibodies to gliadin
- Total IgA – screens for IgA antibody deficiency
If these blood tests are positive, an intestinal biopsy is performed to confirm villous atrophy in the small intestine. During an endoscopy procedure, the gastroenterologist takes small tissue samples from the intestine to examine under a microscope. Changes to the villi and inflammation of the intestinal lining can diagnose celiac disease.
Following a gluten-free diet
Once diagnosed, the only treatment for celiac disease is adhering to a strict gluten-free diet for life. This requires avoiding any foods, drinks or products containing wheat, barley, rye and any derivatives. Reading ingredient labels is a must to watch out for hidden sources of gluten. Oats are sometimes contaminated and should be consumed with caution. In addition to eliminating obvious sources of gluten like bread, pasta and baked goods, gluten can also be found in sauces, seasonings, broths, soups, vitamins, lipstick and more. Following a gluten-free diet is challenging but essential for controlling celiac disease.
With proper precautions, most people with celiac disease can lead a happy, healthy life. However, strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is required as even small amounts of cross-contamination can trigger symptoms and further damage the intestines.
Are Fruit Roll-Ups gluten-free?
Determining if popular snacks like Fruit Roll-Ups are celiac friendly can be difficult. So are Fruit Roll-Ups gluten-free? Let’s take a detailed look at the ingredients.
According to General Mills, most Fruit Roll-Up flavors contain the following ingredients:
- Pears from concentrate
- Apples from concentrate
- Fruit puree (specific fruit depending on flavor)
- Corn syrup
- Modified corn starch
- Contains 2% or less of: malic acid, sorbic acid, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid, vitamin C, potassium sorbate, natural flavors, red 40, yellow 6, blue 1.
At first glance, the ingredient list appears gluten-free. Fruit concentrates, purees and juices tend to be gluten-free. Sugars like corn syrup and sucrose are also free of gluten. However, we need to take a closer look at that tricky ingredient – modified corn starch.
Modified corn starch
Modified corn starch can be made from just corn, which would make it gluten-free. However, it can also be made from wheat. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, modified starches are frequently made with a combination of corn and wheat. This is problematic as the wheat component introduces gluten into the modified starch.
General Mills does not specify the source of their modified corn starch. So there is a good chance it contains gluten. The modified starch is reason enough to consider General Mills’ standard Fruit Roll-Ups not celiac friendly or gluten-free.
In addition, if General Mills’ Fruit Roll-Ups were truly gluten-free, they would be advertised as such. Gluten-free labeling regulations require products with less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten to be labelled as gluten-free or have a gluten-free certification symbol. The lack of gluten-free labeling suggests these Fruit Roll-Ups likely contain gluten and are not safe for people with celiac disease.
Even if the ingredients in standard Fruit Roll-Ups did not contain wheat-sourced modified starch, there is still a risk of cross-contamination with gluten-containing products. General Mills mass produces Fruit Roll-Ups on shared equipment alongside many different products. Traces of gluten could make their way into the product during manufacturing.
General Mills has this disclaimer about cross-contamination on their website:
“We do not have gluten-free-dedicated facilities. During the normal course of business, our products may come into contact with other gluten-containing grains, including wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives. As a result, we cannot guarantee any of our products are 100% gluten-free.”
So even though the ingredients may theoretically be gluten-free, risk of gluten cross-contamination is high on shared equipment. This makes standard Fruit Roll-Ups unsuitable for a gluten-free diet.
Are certain flavors gluten-free?
Certain flavors of Fruit Roll-Ups are labelled as gluten-free. These specialty flavors include:
- Fruit Roll-Ups Gluten Free Wildberry
- Fruit Roll-Ups Gluten Free Cherry
- Fruit Shapes Gluten Free Disney Villains
These gluten-free varieties are made with corn starch instead of modified corn starch. They are produced on dedicated gluten-free equipment to prevent cross-contamination. The gluten-free Fruit Roll-Ups are third-party tested with less than 20 ppm gluten. This makes them an excellent celiac friendly option.
However, it is very important to verify the label says “gluten-free” when purchasing these products. The standard Fruit Roll-Ups are not gluten-free and it would be easy to confuse the two products. Only flavors explicitly labelled gluten-free have been tested as such.
Are organic or simply Fruit Roll-Ups gluten-free?
General Mills also sells organic Fruit Roll-Ups and Simply Fruit Roll-Ups. However, these are NOT labelled gluten-free. Both products contain modified corn starch without identifying the source. They also have the same cross-contamination concerns. Do not assume organic or simply Fruit Roll-Ups are gluten-free without verifying gluten-free certification on the label.
Risk of misleading labeling
When researching if snacks like Fruit Roll-Ups are gluten-free, it’s important to note that ingredient labels can be misleading. Manufacturers may list a fruit concentrate as the first ingredient, even when the product is mostly corn syrup with minimal real fruit. Or they may label an ingredient ‘natural flavors’ when it contains wheat.
Additionally, ‘gluten-free’ labeling does not require testing for the presence of gluten. It only verifies that no gluten-containing ingredients were knowingly added. Due to hidden ingredients and cross-contamination concerns, there is no substitute for choosing certified gluten-free products when following a strict celiac diet. Relying solely on ingredient lists for snacks like Fruit Roll-Ups can put someone with celiac disease at risk for negative health outcomes.
Are there risks from consuming gluten with celiac disease?
Yes, there are very serious health risks associated with consuming even small traces of gluten for those with celiac disease. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, ingestion of gluten can have the following harmful effects:
- Damage to the small intestine and gastrointestinal tract
- Malabsorption of nutrients
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Osteoporosis and osteopenia
- Central and peripheral nervous system disorders like ataxia and neuropathy
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Lactose intolerance
- Infertility and miscarriage
- Liver conditions
- Certain types of cancer like intestinal lymphoma
Consuming gluten can be detrimental to a celiac patient’s short-term quality of life while also increasing risks for long-term negative health consequences. That’s why it’s so important for anyone with celiac disease to be extremely cautious about exposure to any products that may contain gluten. Even trace amounts can trigger damage.
Gluten-free fruit leather alternatives
While conventional Fruit Roll-Ups pose too much risk for the gluten-free diet, there are many other delicious options for fruit leathers and dried fruit snacks that are celiac friendly. Here are some recommended brands of gluten-free fruit leathers:
Stonzys only uses real fruit purees with no added syrups or sugars. They are naturally gluten-free and clearly labeled as such. Stonzys fruit leathers come in fun shapes and flavors like strawberry smiles, cherry pineapple twists, and watermelon hearts.
Made in Nature
Made in Nature Supersnacks are made with dried organic fruit and vegetables. Their fruit leathers contain a single ingredient of pure blended fruit like strawberries or mangos. With no additives, these leathers are certified gluten-free.
Appalachian Harvest makes delicious fruit leathers from 100% fruit. They are certified gluten-free and come in flavors like Mixed Berries, Strawberry Banana, Peach Mango, and Concord Grape.
Fruit Bliss hand crafts their fruit rolls from organic ingredients. Flavors like Apricot, Cherry Pomegranate, and Island Splash are gluten-free, vegan, and contain no added sugars.
Stretch Island fruit leathers contain 100% fruit like apples, strawberries, and apricots. They are also labelled gluten-free and free of the top 8 allergens.
Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks are certified gluten-free and made with real fruit juice. While they contain tapioca syrup instead of corn syrup, the flavors are still sweet and tasty.
Vermont Fruit Snacks
Vermont Fruit Snacks are made in the USA using locally sourced fruit when possible. They are gluten-free and contain more actual fruit than many leading brands. Flavors include Berry Medley, Strawberry, and Peach.
Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars are soft baked fig bars that are gluten-free and dairy-free. They are made with whole wheat flour and double the figs of competitors. Available in flavors like blueberry, raspberry, and apple cinnamon.
Peeled Snacks makes gluten-free dried fruit rolls from ingredients like real bananas, pineapples, strawberries, and mangos. The minimal ingredients and avoidance of preservatives or added sugars make these a healthy choice.
|Real fruit purees
|Made in Nature
|Organic dried fruit
|Vermont Fruit Snacks
|Whole wheat flour and figs
|Bananas, pineapples, strawberries
This table summarizes some of the top recommended gluten-free brands of fruit leathers, along with their key ingredients. All of these products are produced in dedicated gluten-free facilities and tested to verify less than 20ppm of gluten. This makes them safe alternatives to enjoy in place of conventional Fruit Roll-Ups when following a gluten-free diet.
Tips for living gluten-free
Eliminating gluten requires diligence and lifestyle adjustments for those with celiac disease. Here are some tips for living gluten-free:
- Learn to read ingredient labels and recognize hidden sources of gluten.
- Look for certification symbols like the GFCO or Crossed Grain emblem.
- Stick to naturally gluten-free whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, meat.
- Select certified gluten-free packaged products.
- Avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen by using separate cookware for gluten-free foods.
- Watch out for gluten in sauces, seasonings, soups, broths, soy sauce and salad dressings.
- Only purchase oats labelled as certified gluten-free to avoid contamination.
- Check prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines for gluten fillers.
- Look for gluten-free menu options or notify restaurants about your dietary needs when dining out.
- Join online support groups for recipe ideas and sharing tips on living gluten-free.
Adjusting to a strict gluten-free lifestyle is challenging but important for health. Over time it will become second nature. Focusing on all the delicious gluten-free foods that can be enjoyed makes it easier.
The verdict on Fruit Roll-Ups
In summary, conventional Fruit Roll-Ups are not considered gluten-free or celiac friendly. The ingredient modified corn starch has a high chance of containing gluten. Even if the ingredients were safe, mass production on shared lines creates risk of cross-contamination. Only certain flavors that are specially produced and labelled as gluten-free have been verified as such through third-party testing. All other varieties of Fruit Roll-Ups including organic and simply brands should be avoided on the gluten-free diet. Thankfully, there are many other tasty alternatives for fruit leathers and dried fruit snacks that are gluten-free. Carefully inspecting labels for certification symbols along with learning hidden sources of gluten makes it possible to safely navigate a gluten-free lifestyle.