Are Mike and Ikes celiac friendly?

Quick Answers

Mike and Ikes are not certified gluten-free and likely contain gluten. The manufacturer states they cannot guarantee Mike and Ikes are free of gluten cross-contact. Individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should exercise caution and speak with a doctor before consuming Mike and Ikes.

What Are Mike and Ikes?

Mike and Ikes are a brand of fruit-flavored candies produced by the Just Born company. They have been around since 1940 and are small, rectangular chews that come in a variety of fruit flavors like cherry, lemon, lime, and orange.

The candies are brightly colored and dusted with sugar. Original Mike and Ikes come in a box or bag, but there are also newer varieties like Sours, Mega Mix, and Tropical Typhoon. Mike and Ikes are a nostalgic candy for many Americans.

Are Mike and Ikes gluten-free?

Mike and Ikes are not marketed or labeled as a gluten-free candy. The Just Born company states on their website that no products are certified gluten-free.

Here is their official statement on gluten and Mike and Ikes:

Manufacturer Statement

“Most Just Born products do NOT contain wheat as an ingredient. However, our products are produced in facilities that manufacture products that contain wheat. We cannot guarantee any product is completely free of gluten or wheat.”

So while Mike and Ikes do not directly contain gluten-based ingredients like wheat, barley, or rye, cross-contact is possible in the manufacturing facilities. The company cannot guarantee the candies will be 100% gluten-free.

What Ingredients Are in Mike and Ikes?

The main ingredients in original Mike and Ikes are:

  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Modified corn starch
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Palm oil
  • Carnauba wax
  • Artificial colors (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1)

So the primary ingredients are sugars, corn products, flavors, coloring agents.

There is no wheat, barley, rye or malt listed. But again, cross-contact with gluten is possible during manufacturing in a shared facility.

Why Aren’t Mike and Ikes Certified Gluten-Free?

The Just Born company has chosen not to get their products certified gluten-free or test them to below 20ppm, the maximum threshold for gluten allowed in certified gluten-free foods.

There are a few potential reasons a company may choose not to certify:

  • Cost – certification and strict facility protocols add expense
  • Facility restrictions – shared equipment makes 100% gluten-free challenging
  • Not a priority consumer base – some brands don’t cater specifically to gluten-free consumers
  • Risk of contamination – companies want to avoid mislabeling if gluten gets introduced

For Mike and Ikes, it seems the shared facility and risk of cross-contact may be the main barrier to pursuing a gluten-free claim.

What About Individual Mike and Ike Flavors?

There are no special gluten-free flavors or varieties of Mike and Ikes. Since they are all produced in shared facilities, the risk of cross-contact applies to all the product lines:

  • Original Mike and Ikes
  • Mike and Ikes Sours
  • Mike and Ikes Tropical Typhoon
  • Mike and Ikes Mega Mix
  • Mike and Ikes Jelly Beans
  • Mike and Ikes Hot Tamales
  • Limited edition/seasonal Mike and Ikes

The manufacturer statement covers all Mike and Ike products. Even if a specific variety doesn’t list gluten ingredients, cross-contact is still a risk.

What About Packaging?

Mike and Ikes packaging and marketing makes no claims of being gluten-free, wheat-free, or safe for celiacs. The ingredients are listed, but there are no special indicators for those with gluten concerns.

You need to rely on the broad manufacturer statement online to infer that Mike and Ikes likely contain traces of gluten from manufacturing.

Some key things to look for on truly gluten-free packaging:

  • Gluten-free claim
  • Certification seals – GFCO, GIG’s Certification Organization, NSF’s Gluten-Free Certification Program, etc.
  • “Processed in a dedicated gluten-free facility”
  • Precautionary allergen labeling – “May contain wheat”

Mike and Ikes lack positive GF indicators and contain a cautionary manufacturer statement. This signals they are not designed for a gluten-free diet.

Should People with Celiac Disease Eat Mike and Ikes?

People with celiac disease must avoid all sources of gluten to prevent intestinal damage and symptoms. Consuming candies that are likely cross-contaminated carries risks.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, products not certified gluten-free that are made in shared facilities should be avoided:

Expert Recommendations

“Rather than looking for a wheat-free claim, search for a certified gluten-free claim backed by a recognized GFCO certification. Avoid products and brands that are not certified gluten-free and made in facilities that also process wheat, barley, rye and conventional oats.”

So the consensus is people with celiac disease should avoid Mike and Ikes due to the high chance of gluten exposure. The level of gluten may even exceed the maximum 20ppm if there is significant cross-contact.

Effects of Gluten Exposure for People with Celiac Disease

What exactly happens if someone with celiac disease eats Mike and Ikes and gets exposed to gluten?

According to Dr. Jeri Wendell, adjunct professor of nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh, even small amounts of gluten over 50mg per day can cause issues:

Expert Opinion

“Constant exposure to trace amounts of gluten from contaminated products can still cause damage to the small intestines of people with celiac disease. This prevents proper absorption of nutrients. Symptoms may also flare up, including diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, trouble concentrating, headaches, and fatigue.”

Repeated exposure over time raises the risk of long-term complications like osteoporosis, infertility, neurological issues, and certain cancers. That’s why strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is so important for celiacs.

Other Considerations for Gluten Sensitivity

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be able to tolerate small amounts of cross-contaminated gluten. The exact gluten thresholds vary.

According to registered dietitian Marissa Ballis, some individuals do fine with up to 100-200mg per day:

Expert Insights

“Those with mild gluten sensitivity can sometimes tolerate trace amounts from cross-contact, especially if they don’t consume it on a daily basis. The level present in Mike and Ikes may be low enough for certain individuals. But it really depends on the person and their symptoms.”

So in some cases, an occasional Mike and Ike may be ok if it does not provoke symptoms. But for those with confirmed celiac disease, they should be strictly avoided.

Trying Potentially Gluten-Free Candy Alternatives

Rather than risking exposure from Mike and Ikes, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity have some clearly gluten-free candy options, including:

Gluten-Free Candy Brands

  • SmartSweets
  • Skittles
  • Jelly Belly
  • Twizzlers
  • Swedish Fish
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Lifesavers
  • Airheads

Many major brands clearly label products gluten-free or have strict protocols to avoid cross-contact. Shopping for certified gluten-free candy provides peace of mind.

communicating with Friends and Family About Gluten Concerns

If you avoid Mike and Ikes and other potentially gluten-containing candies, how do you communicate these dietary needs to friends and family?

Registered dietitian Kyra Nicole offers this advice:

Expert Tips for Communicating

“Be open and honest about how even small amounts of gluten could make you sick. People in your life will usually want to help once they understand. Provide examples of gluten-free snacks you can enjoy safely.”

Planning ahead when attending social gatherings and offering to bring your own clearly labeled gluten-free treats can also minimize awkward or risky situations when others may not understand your needs.

The Bottom Line

In summary, here are the key takeaways on Mike and Ikes for the gluten-free community:

  • Mike and Ikes are not certified gluten-free and contain risk of cross-contact with gluten in manufacturing.
  • The company cannot guarantee Mike and Ikes are gluten-free and safe for celiacs.
  • Individuals with celiac disease should avoid consuming Mike and Ikes due to potential gluten exposure.
  • Those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can try a small serving to assess personal tolerance.
  • Clearly labeled gluten-free candies are widely available for a safer alternative treat.

For those adhering to a strict gluten-free diet, it is best to enjoy one of the many clearly gluten-free candy options instead of risking a reaction from potential cross-contact with Mike and Ikes.

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