Are Ian’s fish sticks gluten free?

Whether Ian’s fish sticks are gluten free is an important question for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. In the opening paragraphs, we’ll provide a quick overview of what gluten is, the health impacts of gluten for those with gluten-related disorders, and why gluten free diets are medically necessary for these individuals. We’ll also touch on how common gluten free diets are today, and why food manufacturers are making more gluten free options available.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It acts as a glue that helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a structural component. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping baked goods rise and keep their shape. It also gives a chewy texture to products like breads, pastas and cereals.

Gluten is made up of two protein groups, gliadins and glutenins. It is the gliadins that cause issues for people who are gluten intolerant. Gliadins are more likely to cause immune system reactions in people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Health Impacts of Gluten

For most people, gluten does not cause any problems or negative health effects. However, for those with gluten-related disorders, consuming gluten can cause a range of undesirable symptoms and complications:

  • Celiac disease – An autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten. Can cause damage to the small intestine.
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity – Gluten triggers symptoms but there is no attack on or damage to the small intestine.
  • Wheat allergy – An allergic reaction to wheat triggered by proteins found in wheat. Not necessarily just a reaction to the gluten.
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis – A skin condition characterized by an itchy, blistering rash triggered by gluten exposure.

People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity experience a range of gastrointestinal issues when they consume gluten. Symptoms may include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, headaches and more. There is no cure for celiac disease, only strict adherence to a 100% gluten free diet.

For those with celiac disease, eating gluten also increases the risk for serious complications like malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility and certain types of cancer if the condition goes unchecked. That’s why following a gluten free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease today.

The Rising Popularity of Gluten Free Diets

In the past, gluten free diets were seen as rare and very restrictive. But as awareness of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity has grown, more and more people are adopting gluten free eating. It’s estimated that about 1 in 100 people worldwide have celiac disease. Though only a small percentage of those cases are diagnosed. As testing improves, medical experts expect celiac diagnoses to continue rising.

Beyond those with celiac disease and gluten disorders, many more people are going gluten free for perceived health benefits or because they feel better without gluten. This has driven up demand for gluten free products. Gluten free food sales reached an estimated $15 billion in 2018 and are forecast to hit $23 billion by 2023. Food manufacturers large and small are bringing more certified gluten free products to market to meet rising consumer demand.

Year Estimated Sales of Gluten Free Foods
2018 $15 billion
2023 (projected) $23 billion

What Makes a Food Gluten Free?

For a food product to be certified and labeled as gluten free in the United States, it must meet certain requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • It cannot contain any type of wheat, rye, barley or crossbreeds of these grains.
  • No ingredients derived from prohibited grains can be used, like malt extract or malt vinegar.
  • Oats are allowed but can only be labeled gluten free if processed in a way that avoids contamination.
  • Foods cannot contain more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

Any product seeking a certified gluten free label must be tested to verify it meets these criteria. Testing ensures that both obvious and hidden sources of gluten are not present. Hidden sources could include cross-contamination from shared equipment or facilities.

Are Ian’s Fish Sticks Truly Gluten Free?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get back to the original question: Are Ian’s fish sticks gluten free? Let’s consider what we know about this product:

  • The product packaging for Ian’s fish sticks includes a “gluten free” label.
  • The ingredient list states the product contains: wild caught pollock, water, potato starch, sunflower oil, and sea salt.
  • The fish sticks are made in a dedicated gluten free facility, as stated on the packaging.

Based on this information, it initially appears that Ian’s fish sticks should be gluten free. They are labeled as gluten free, do not contain any ingredients derived from prohibited grains, and are made in a facility designed to avoid cross-contamination with gluten.

However, it’s impossible to say for 100% certainty without seeing detailed gluten testing results. There have been cases of products falsely labeled as gluten free when testing later found significant levels of gluten. This underscores why third-party gluten testing is so critical for consumer safety.

Questions to Consider

Here are some key questions to dig further into on whether Ian’s fish sticks are likely to be truly gluten free:

  • Does the company perform and provide results of third-party testing on the finished product to verify it contains less than 20 ppm of gluten?
  • Does the facility have thorough protocols in place to prevent cross-contamination at all steps – ingredients, processing, cleaning and packaging?
  • Are separate utensils used for gluten free items? Are surfaces thoroughly sanitized between productions?
  • What qualifications and training do employees have in gluten free handling procedures?

Without answers directly from the manufacturer, it’s difficult to guarantee any product is absolutely gluten free and safe for celiacs. That’s why seeking out brands who regularly test their products and openly share results gives added assurance.

Other Gluten Free Frozen Fish Options

Beyond Ian’s fish sticks, there are a number of other gluten free frozen fish products on the market. Here are some top recommendations for high-quality gluten free frozen fish and seafood:

SeaPak Gluten Free Frozen Fish

  • Breaded fish fillets and sticks made with gluten free breading
  • Gluten testing done down to 5 ppm
  • Processing facilities are gluten free and Kosher certified

Gorton’s Gluten Free Frozen Fish

  • Batter coated fish fillets, fish sticks and crab cakes
  • No gluten ingredients used
  • Not tested to verify gluten levels – risk of trace amounts

O’Doughs Gluten Free Frozen Fish Sticks

  • Breaded with gluten free corn-based breading
  • Explicitly label “not recommended for celiacs”
  • Risk of cross-contamination from processing

As you compare options, look at which brands provide the most reassurance around avoiding gluten cross-contamination. Celiac support groups may also have user reviews on various brands’ products and whether individuals have reacted to them.

Tips for Following a Gluten Free Diet

Whether you eat Ian’s fish sticks or another gluten free brand, following a strict gluten free diet requires vigilance. Here are some essential tips to keep your diet 100% gluten free:

Read All Labels Carefully

Get in the habit of reading ingredient lists, not just front of package claims. Gluten can hide in unexpected places like soy sauce, salad dressings and seasoning blends. Look for any suspicious ingredients and call the manufacturer if uncertain.

Learn High-Risk Ingredients

Beyond the obvious wheat, rye and barley, learn other grains and ingredients that often contain gluten: malt, brewer’s yeast, Oat fiber, starch, blue cheese, and more. Research high risk ingredients so you can immediately recognize them.

Watch Out for Cross-Contamination

Even gluten free products risk exposure to traces of gluten during processing or handling. Carefully vet brands and only buy items made in dedicated gluten free facilities when possible.

Cook More Meals at Home

Preparing your own gluten free meals is the best way to control exposure. Get creative cooking gluten free recipes at home using naturally gluten free ingredients like vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, eggs and gluten free grains.

Communicate with Wait Staff

Check directly with restaurant servers on preparation and risk of cross-contact before ordering. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to dine safely.


Whether Ian’s fish sticks are definitively gluten free is difficult to prove given limited publicly available testing data. But by reading all labels carefully, learning high risk ingredients, and contacting manufacturers with questions, you can feel more confident in the products you choose. Pair that with cooking more gluten free meals at home, and communicating closely with restaurants, and you will be well on your way to living gluten free.

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