Can celiacs drink Pepsi Max?

Can Celiacs Drink Pepsi Max?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. For people with celiac disease, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that attacks the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients properly. This can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and fatigue.

Pepsi Max is a diet cola that is marketed as having zero sugar. It’s sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame potassium (ace-K). While Pepsi Max does not contain any gluten ingredients, some people with celiac disease wonder if it is truly gluten-free and safe to drink.

Is Pepsi Max Gluten-Free?

Yes, Pepsi has confirmed that Pepsi Max is gluten-free. On their website, Pepsi states that none of their cola beverages, including Pepsi Max, contain gluten from wheat, barley, rye or oats. They also note that their products are not at risk of gluten cross-contamination when manufactured.

Additionally, Pepsi Max is certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), an organization that independently tests products to verify they contain less than 10 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. The gluten-free certification means Pepsi Max has been rigorously tested and proven to meet the standard for gluten-free foods.

Ingredients in Pepsi Max

Let’s take a look at the main ingredients in Pepsi Max:

  • Carbonated water
  • Caramel color
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Aspartame
  • Potassium benzoate
  • Caffeine
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Citric acid
  • Natural flavors

None of these ingredients contain gluten. Aspartame, acesulfame potassium, potassium benzoate, and citric acid are artificial sweeteners and preservatives. The caramel color provides the brown cola color. Phosphoric acid adds tanginess. Caffeine is added for an energy boost. Natural flavors enhance the cola taste. But again, no gluten.

Risk of Cross-Contamination

While the ingredients themselves are gluten-free, some wonder about the risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing. Since Pepsi produces other beverages that do contain gluten, like Gatorade, could Pepsi Max be contaminated?

This is unlikely due to strict quality control measures. Pepsi centralizes the production of their gluten-free beverages in facilities that only handle gluten-free products. Additionally, the equipment and production lines are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between different beverage runs. Pepsi also sources the ingredients for Pepsi Max from certified gluten-free suppliers.

The gluten-free certification indicates that testing has been performed to verify finished Pepsi Max products contain less than 10ppm of gluten. So cross-contamination is very minimal and well below the FDA requirement of less than 20ppm for foods labeled gluten-free.

Testing Pepsi Max Products

Some celiacs may still feel uncertain and wish to test their specific purchased product for peace of mind. This can be done using commercially available gluten home test kits. Simply add a sample of the beverage to the test kit and it will indicate if gluten is present above certain thresholds like 10ppm or 20ppm.

Consumer lab tests have supported that Pepsi Max cans tested below 5ppm of gluten, corroborating Pepsi’s claims of gluten-free status. But for extra cautious celiacs, self-testing each new package of Pepsi Max is an option for added assurance.

Are There Any Other Concerns with Pepsi Max?

Besides gluten, some celiacs may wonder if the artificial sweeteners and other ingredients could be problematic. Here are a few considerations:


Pepsi Max contains sweeteners and fruit extracts that may be high in FODMAPs, types of carbohydrates that can cause digestive issues for some people with celiac disease. Those who are sensitive to FODMAPs may want to limit intake of Pepsi Max.

Caffeine and Citric Acid

The caffeine and citric acid in Pepsi Max can stimulate gastric acid secretion and potentially aggravate symptoms in celiacs with heartburn or GERD.

Caramel Color

Pepsi Max contains caramel color, derived from ammonia and sulfites. Some celiacs are sensitive to sulfites, which can trigger headaches, cramping or wheezing in susceptible people.

So while not a problem gluten-wise, some people with celiac disease may be reactive to other aspects of Pepsi Max’s formula.

Better Beverage Alternatives

While Pepsi Max seems to be safe in terms of gluten content, it may not be the best beverage choice for all celiacs due to aspects like FODMAPs, caffeine or sulfites. Some healthier drink options may include:

  • Water – flavored sparking water or infused water
  • Unsweetened tea
  • Fruit juice – 100% fruit juices without added sugars
  • Coconut water
  • Herbal teas – chamomile, peppermint, ginger
  • Bone broth – broth containing electrolytes
  • Milk alternatives – coconut, almond, rice milk

These options will help hydrate without the use of artificial sweeteners, preservatives or additives that may cause discomfort. And they align better with an overall gluten-free, anti-inflammatory diet.

The Bottom Line

So can celiacs drink Pepsi Max? The verdict seems to be yes, Pepsi Max is gluten-free to the high standards required for celiac safety. However, some celiacs could be sensitive to the artificial sweeteners, caffeine or other components. Water and natural beverages are healthier choices, especially for celiacs managing multiple dietary restrictions and food sensitivities. But an occasional Pepsi Max in moderation should not pose a gluten risk.

Celiacs should stick to the serving size and avoid overindulging in soda, even gluten-free ones. While Pepsi Max won’t cause a direct gluten reaction, the acidity and lack of nutrients don’t contribute to intestinal healing. But for an infrequent treat, a reasonable serving of Pepsi Max doesn’t seem problematic for most celiacs based on ingredients and testing.

As with any new product, celiacs should carefully read ingredient lists and reference certification organizations like the Gluten Intolerance Group for safety verification. Those who are very sensitive are encouraged to contact Pepsi Consumer Relations for any questions on manufacturing processes and quality control measures for assurance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Pepsi Max contain maltodextrin?

No, Pepsi Max does not contain maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is sometimes made from wheat and can be a source of hidden gluten. But Pepsi Max’s ingredient list does not include maltodextrin.

Does Pepsi Max contain barley?

No, there is no barley in Pepsi Max. Barley is a gluten-containing grain that celiacs must avoid. Pepsi Max is made without any ingredients derived from barley.

Is Pepsi Max made in a gluten-free facility?

No, Pepsi Max is not made in a dedicated gluten-free facility. However, Pepsi takes steps to prevent cross-contamination, including thorough cleaning protocols, separating production lines, and sourcing gluten-free ingredients. Finished products are tested to confirm gluten levels below 10ppm.

Has Pepsi Max ever been recalled for gluten?

Pepsi Max has not been recalled specifically due to concerns about gluten contamination. Pepsi periodically recalls products for unrelated issues like incorrect labeling or metal pieces, but there have been no major recalls involving gluten risks.

Does Pepsi test their products for gluten?

Yes, Pepsi regularly tests finished Pepsi Max products to ensure they are below 10ppm of gluten, meeting the standards to be certified gluten-free. Their testing, along with third-party certification, provides assurance of product safety.

Supporting Research

This article was compiled using the following sources:

The information provided is not medical advice. Always consult with your doctor about your specific condition, symptoms, and any changes to your celiac disease management.

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