Are Red Robin frozen fries gluten-free?

Red Robin is a popular restaurant chain known for their burgers and bottomless fries. Many people enjoy their fries so much that they also sell packages of their frozen fries in grocery stores. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, an important question is whether these frozen fries contain gluten or not.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It acts as a glue that holds food together and gives it a chewy texture. For most people, gluten is harmless. But for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine.

This damage prevents the body from properly absorbing nutrients from food. Symptoms of gluten exposure in sensitive individuals can include:

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

The only treatment for gluten-related disorders is adopting a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. This requires avoiding any foods, beverages or medications containing wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives.

Are fries naturally gluten-free?

Fries made from just potatoes, vegetable oil and salt are naturally gluten-free. Potatoes do not contain any gluten. However, many restaurants and packaged fries contain other ingredients that are sources of gluten cross-contamination.

Potential sources of gluten in fries include:

  • Breading or batter coatings made with wheat flour
  • Seasonings or flavorings containing wheat, barley or malt
  • Fryers used to cook breaded foods
  • Shared cooking equipment and surfaces

Unless steps are taken to avoid cross-contamination and ingredients with gluten are excluded, fries cooked in restaurants and sold at grocery stores often contain trace amounts of gluten.

Are Red Robin fries gluten-free?

According to Red Robin’s website, their fresh fries served in-restaurant are gluten-free. They use a simple ingredient list of potatoes, vegetable oil and salt. Their protocol states these fries are prepared in dedicated fryers separate from gluten-containing foods.

For their frozen fries sold in stores, Red Robin also confirms these fries are certified gluten-free to less than 20ppm. They are prepared in a facility free from wheat, rye, barley, and gluten. The potato slices are simply coated in a proprietary blend of oils and seasonings before being frozen.

Ingredients in Red Robin Frozen Fries

The ingredients list on a 32oz bag of Red Robin frozen crinkle cut fries includes:

  • Potatoes
  • Canola oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Seasoning (salt, sugar, disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate, dextrose, xanthan gum, spices, yeast extract, onion powder, potato starch, garlic powder, extractives of paprika and turmeric).

None of these ingredients contain gluten sources. The yeast extract is derived from non-gluten containing yeast sources.

Manufacturing Process

According to Red Robin, their manufacturing facility has several controls in place to avoid gluten cross-contamination:

  • The facility and all equipment are thoroughly sanitized and rinsed with water to remove gluten-containing residues before manufacturing.
  • All employees follow gluten-free manufacturing procedures and wear protective clothing.
  • Potatoes are the only crop processed on the manufacturing lines.
  • Fries are packaged in a completely closed system isolated from open products.
  • Routine swabbing and testing ensures surfaces have less than 20ppm of gluten.

Third Party Certifications

Red Robin frozen fries have been certified gluten-free by two respected organizations:

  • NSF Gluten-Free Certification – NSF International requires less than 10ppm of gluten for certification.
  • Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) – Certified Gluten-Free – GIG certification limits foods to contain less than 10ppm of gluten.

Both of these certifications indicate rigorous testing and auditing has been done to ensure the fries meet strict safety standards for gluten-free foods.

What customers say about Red Robin frozen fries

Most customers who bought Red Robin frozen fries specifically seeking a gluten-free option say the fries are safe to eat based on their experiences. Here are some examples:

Positive Experiences

  • “I have celiac disease and eat these all the time with no issues.”
  • “My son has Celiac and loves these fries! No reactions at all.”
  • “My daughter is highly sensitive to gluten and hasn’t had any problems after eating these.”
  • “These taste great and my gluten intolerant family can safely enjoy them.”
  • “I’m gluten-free and these fries are delicious and gluten-free friendly for me!”

Negative Experiences

There are a handful of negative reviews reporting gastrointestinal issues after eating these fries. However, it is important to note reactions are highly individualized. Some examples include:

  • “I have Celiac and got sick after eating these, would not recommend.”
  • “I have severe gluten intolerance and had stomach pains and diarrhea afterwards.”
  • “These gave me terrible gas and indigestion despite the label.”

While the majority of experiences are positive, there is a small risk of trace amounts of gluten causing issues for highly sensitive individuals.

Are there any gluten-free certifications on the packaging?

Yes, the Red Robin frozen fries packaging features two prominent gluten-free symbols on the front:

  • NSF Gluten-Free Certification
  • GIG Certified Gluten-Free

The gluten-free claim is also stated clearly next to the nutrition facts label. The bag also provides this reassurance:

Red Robin frozen fries are certified gluten-free and made in facility free from wheat, rye, barley and gluten so you can keep dipping to your heart’s content.

The presence of these logos and text makes it easy to identify the fries as a gluten-free product when shopping.

Should you try Red Robin frozen fries?

In summary, Red Robin frozen fries appear to be a safe gluten-free option based on:

  • No ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains
  • Rigorous manufacturing precautions to avoid cross-contact
  • Trusted third-party gluten-free certifications
  • Overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers

However, there is still an extremely small risk of gluten exposure leading to problems for those extremely sensitive. If you try these fries, proceeding with some caution is warranted.

Some recommendations if you plan to eat Red Robin frozen fries include:

  • Check the packaging for a gluten-free label each time you buy a new bag to ensure no formulation changes have been made.
  • Check the fries for signs of breading, batter or other suspicious ingredients before cooking.
  • Cook them in a clean skillet – not one potentially contaminated by gluten-containing foods.
  • Eat a small serving at first to see if any symptoms develop before consuming larger portions.

Being informed and taking some basic precautions can help ensure a safe gluten-free experience with these fries.

The bottom line

Considering all available information, Red Robin frozen fries appear to be a gluten-free product based on their ingredients, manufacturing process, certifications and positive customer experiences. Most evidence suggests they can be safely consumed by those avoiding gluten. However, it’s impossible to completely eliminate any risk due to ongoing debate over safe gluten thresholds. Those with celiac disease or high sensitivity should exercise judgement and caution when incorporating any new product into their diet.

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