Are Tom’s Bugles gluten-free?

Tom’s Bugles are a popular brand of cone-shaped corn snack that many people enjoy as a crunchy, salty treat. However, for those who need to avoid gluten for health reasons like celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, an important question arises: Are Tom’s Bugles gluten-free?

Quick answer: Yes, Tom’s Bugles are certified gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million. They are made with gluten-free ingredients and processed in a dedicated gluten-free facility. Tom’s Bugles do not contain any wheat, barley, rye or their derivatives, making them a safe snack choice for gluten-free diets.

Gluten refers to the proteins found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune reaction that damages the small intestine and causes symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and fatigue. The only treatment is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Many popular snacks like pretzels, crackers, cookies and chips are made with gluten-containing grains. But Tom’s Bugles and some other corn snacks are naturally gluten-free. Understanding which brands and products are gluten-free is key for managing a gluten-free lifestyle.

This article will examine the ingredients and manufacturing process of Tom’s Bugles to determine if they are a suitable gluten-free option. We’ll also look at how cross-contamination can occur and Tom’s testing protocols to ensure their products stay gluten-free through processing and distribution.

Are Corn Products Naturally Gluten-Free?

Corn, also known as maize, is a naturally gluten-free grain. Gluten proteins are only found in wheat, barley and rye as well as any crossbred hybrid grains like triticale. Since corn does not inherently contain gluten, products made solely from corn are inherently gluten-free.

Many popular chip and snack products are made from corn or a combination of corn and other gluten-free grains like rice or quinoa. These include:

  • Corn chips
  • Tortilla chips
  • Popcorn
  • Corn puffs like Tom’s Bugles

However, a corn ingredient alone does not guarantee a product is gluten-free. Many corn snacks contain additional seasonings, flavorings and starches that may introduce gluten during processing. Corn chips or puffs may also become cross-contaminated with gluten if they are produced on shared equipment with gluten-containing grains.

That’s why it’s important for gluten-free consumers to check the ingredient list and look for a certified gluten-free label when choosing corn products. For utmost safety, the product should be made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

What Ingredients Are in Tom’s Bugles?

According to the ingredient list on Tom’s Bugles packaging, the corn puffs contain just three simple gluten-free ingredients:

  • Corn meal
  • Vegetable oil (sunflower, corn or canola oil)
  • Salt

The primary ingredient is corn meal, or ground dried corn. Vegetable oil is added to the corn meal to help create the puffed texture when the bugles are formed and baked. Finally, salt is added for flavor.

Tom’s Bugles do not contain any wheat, barley, rye or gluten-containing additives like malt or wheat starch. The ingredient list and use of pure corn make Tom’s Bugles a naturally gluten-free product.

However, those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should still check the label each time they purchase Tom’s Bugles. Ingredient lists are always subject to change without notice. Some batches may be produced on shared equipment with gluten-containing foods, which increases the risk of cross-contamination.

Are Tom’s Bugles Processed in a Dedicated Gluten-Free Facility?

Yes, Tom’s Bugles are manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility, which greatly reduces the risk of cross-contamination with gluten.

Many popular gluten-free brands like Chex, Frito-Lay and Snyder’s have dedicated gluten-free production lines but still manufacture gluten-containing varieties on shared equipment in the same location. This increases the risk of trace gluten exposure through shared ventilation systems or improper cleaning procedures.

Tom’s opts to manufacture all their gluten-free snacks like Tom’s Bugles in a completely separate gluten-free facility in Columbus, Georgia. No gluten ingredients are allowed inside the facility at all. This best practice minimizes cross-contamination risks that may exist even in facilities with dedicated gluten-free lines.

Manufacturing in a dedicated gluten-free facility ensures Tom’s products stay gluten-free from start to finish. The corn meal used in Tom’s Bugles is milled into a fine powder on dedicated gluten-free equipment. The oil and seasonings added are verified gluten-free. The bugles are formed and cooked in dedicated gluten-free systems. They are then packaged and sealed without any risk of airborne gluten contaminating the products.

What Testing Protocols Does Tom’s Use?

Tom’s follows rigorous gluten-free testing protocols to ensure their products contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This strict standard provides an added safety buffer for the approximately 3 million Americans who have celiac disease and are highly sensitive to trace gluten exposure.

Here are the testing processes Tom’s uses to keep their snacks gluten-free:

  • Raw ingredient testing – All corn meal and other ingredients are tested for gluten before being allowed into the gluten-free facility.
  • Production equipment testing – Equipment surfaces are swabbed and tested for gluten residues before each production run.
  • Finished product testing – Packaged Tom’s Bugles undergo additional gluten testing to verify no cross-contamination occurred during manufacturing.
  • Random lot testing – Selected product lots are pulled off the line and tested again for gluten content analysis.
  • Third party verification – Samples are sent to independent laboratories specializing in sensitive gluten testing procedures.

This rigorous testing at multiple steps ensures the highest level of assurance that Tom’s Bugles remain gluten-free through every stage of production.

Are Tom’s Bugles Certified Gluten-Free?

Yes, Tom’s Bugles are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP). This third-party certification verifies the products contain less than 20 ppm of gluten, the internationally recognized standard for gluten-free claims.

The GFCP audits and inspects the entire manufacturing process, raw ingredients, equipment cleaning procedures and finished products. Certified products are re-audited periodically to ensure they continue meeting the strict requirements. The GFCP also reviews any consumer complaints related to gluten contamination.

The recognizable GFCP certification logo can be found on every bag of Tom’s Bugles, along with the term “gluten-free” prominently displayed. This takes the guesswork out of determining if Tom’s Bugles are safe to eat on a gluten-free diet.

Can Cross-Contamination Occur After Manufacturing?

While Tom’s goes to great lengths to prevent cross-contamination with gluten during production, the snacks could theoretically become contaminated during distribution or handling after they leave the manufacturing facility. Here are a few examples:

  • Shared transportation vehicles – Trucks that transport gluten-containing foods may drop crumbs or release airborne particles that get on gluten-free products
  • Warehouses – Improper storage procedures may lead to cross-contamination from shared equipment or air circulation
  • Grocery stores – Products on shelves may be placed near or on top of gluten-containing foods
  • Home or kitchens – Previously opened bags may be stored near gluten or use shared serving tools

While these risks are relatively low, the best practice for anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is to thoroughly clean storage areas, transportation containers and serving tools before using them for gluten-free foods. Avoiding crumbled or damaged packages also reduces risks.

The Verdict on Tom’s Bugles

Based on an analysis of the ingredients, manufacturing practices and third-party certifications, Tom’s Bugles can be considered gluten-free. Here’s a summary:

  • Made from naturally gluten-free corn meal
  • No gluten-containing ingredients
  • Produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility
  • Rigorously tested to less than 20 ppm of gluten
  • Verified by the Gluten-Free Certification Program

While trace amounts of cross-contamination after production remains a possibility, the risks are quite low given Tom’s stringent procedures. Those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can feel comfortable enjoying Tom’s gluten-free Bugles as part of a healthy gluten-free diet. They provide a satisfying crunch and salty flavor from gluten-free whole grain corn.

Other Questions About Tom’s Bugles

Here are answers to some additional common questions about Tom’s Bugles:

Are there any dairy ingredients in Tom’s Bugles?

No, Tom’s Bugles are dairy-free. They do not contain any milk-derived ingredients.

Are Tom’s Bugles nut-free?

Yes, Tom’s Bugles are nut-free and safe for people with peanut or tree nut allergies. They are produced in a dedicated nut-free facility.

Are Tom’s Bugles vegan?

Yes, Tom’s Bugles are considered vegan. They do not contain any animal-derived ingredients or use any animal products during manufacturing.

Do Tom’s Bugles contain genetically modified corn?

Yes, the corn used in Tom’s Bugles is likely from genetically modified seeds based on the high percentage of GMO corn crops grown today. They would not be suitable for GMO-free diets.

Where are Tom’s Bugles sold?

Tom’s Bugles can be found in the snack aisle at major grocery chains like Walmart, Target, Kroger, Safeway and Stop & Shop throughout the United States. They are typically stocked near other salty snacks and corn chips.

How long is the shelf life of Tom’s Bugles?

Unopened bags of Tom’s Bugles have a shelf life of approximately 9 months from the manufacturing date. After opening, the snacks will start to lose their crispness but can last 2-3 weeks if properly sealed. Look for the best by date on the back of the bag.

Can you eat Tom’s Bugles after the expiration date?

It’s generally not recommended to eat Tom’s Bugles past the printed expiration or best by date. While not dangerous, the snacks will become stale and lose their signature crispy texture. Expired corn products can also develop an unpleasant taste and aroma.

How should you store Tom’s Bugles?

To maximize freshness, store unopened Tom’s Bugles in a cool, dry pantry away from direct sunlight. Avoid storage in humid environments. After opening, seal the bag tightly and store in an airtight container to maintain crispness.


Checking labels for gluten-free status is a necessary step for anyone following a gluten-free diet. Tom’s Bugles make it easy by using only naturally gluten-free corn meal and achieving rigorous gluten-free certification. Inside their dedicated gluten-free facility, they ensure finished products contain less than the acceptable threshold of 20 ppm of gluten.

While traces after manufacturing can never be fully ruled out, Tom’s Bugles follow best practices to minimize cross-contamination risks. Their certification, careful allergen procedures and transparency about ingredients and processes lend confidence that Tom’s Bugles are a safe gluten-free choice.

Those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance can feel good enjoying the salty, crunchy snack of Tom’s gluten-free Bugles along with a balanced diet of other naturally gluten-free whole foods. They provide satisfying flavor and texture without the concerns surrounding gluten.

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