Can gluten free eat fruit snacks?

Fruit snacks are a popular snack food, often targeted at children. They are made from fruit juices and purees along with other ingredients like sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. For people avoiding gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, deciding whether fruit snacks are gluten free can be tricky. This article will examine what gluten free means, common ingredients in fruit snacks, labeling regulations, and alternatives to find out whether fruit snacks can be part of a gluten free diet.

What Does Gluten Free Mean?

Gluten free refers to foods and products that do not contain the protein gluten. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, headaches and more. The only treatment is to follow a strict lifelong gluten free diet, avoiding any food or product containing wheat, barley, rye or gluten. Oats are sometimes contaminated with gluten during processing.

While celiac disease affects about 1% of the population, non-celiac gluten sensitivity may affect up to 13% of the population. Following a gluten free diet has become increasingly popular, even for those without gluten-related disorders. Going gluten free means excluding gluten-containing ingredients like wheat, barley, rye, malt and triticale. It also means checking labels for ingredients that may contain hidden sources of gluten.

Common Ingredients in Fruit Snacks

Fruit snacks are made from fruit purees, juices and flavorings. Common ingredients include:

– Fruit purees and juices: These provide flavor and nutrients. Popular fruits used are apple, grape, orange, strawberry, raspberry, pineapple and pear.

– Sugar or corn syrup: Added as a sweetener.

– Gelatin: Used as a gelling agent to provide the chewy texture. Gelatin is made by boiling animal bones, skins and tissues.

– Pectin: A plant-based gelling agent sometimes used as an alternative to gelatin.

– Citric acid: Adds a tart, fruity flavor.

– Natural and artificial flavors and colors.

– Vegetable oils: Added to prevent sticking.

So besides the fruit ingredients, fruit snacks contain gelling agents like gelatin or pectin to provide the characteristic chewy texture. Gelatin is made from animal products, while pectin is plant-based. Let’s look closer at whether these common ingredients are gluten free.

Is Gelatin Gluten Free?

Yes, gelatin is naturally gluten free. Gelatin is a protein derived from animal skin and bones, most commonly from pigs and cows. No grains or gluten-containing ingredients are used to produce pure gelatin. Gelatin made from animal sources can be safely consumed on a gluten free diet. Gelatin does not contain wheat, barley, rye or gluten.

However, some gelatin manufacturing processes may introduce gluten cross-contamination risk. Some facilities process wheat or gluten products and gelatin on shared equipment. If equipment is not thoroughly cleaned between gluten and non-gluten products, traces of gluten could contaminate the gelatin. Reputable gelatin manufacturers test products to ensure no gluten cross-contamination. When in doubt, look for gelatin certified gluten free.

Is Pectin Gluten Free?

Yes, pectin is gluten free. Pectin is a soluble fiber found naturally in fruits. For commercial use, pectin is typically extracted from citrus fruits or apple pomace. No gluten-containing grains are used to produce pectin. Pure pectin from these fruit sources is inherently gluten free.

Like gelatin though, potential for gluten cross-contamination may exist during manufacturing. Pectin facilities that also process wheat products should be avoided. Opt for pectin made in dedicated gluten free facilities and certified gluten free when possible.

Other Common Fruit Snack Ingredients

Other typical fruit snack ingredients like sugar, corn syrup, citric acid, vegetable oils, natural flavors and artificial colors do not contain gluten from wheat, barley or rye. However, it is important to verify these are produced in gluten free facilities to avoid potential cross-contamination. Reputable gluten free brands will source all ingredients from facilities that do not also process gluten.

Gluten Free Labeling Regulations

To help consumers identify truly gluten free products, foods labeled “gluten free” must meet certain regulations in the United States:

– Naturally gluten free: Foods that do not naturally contain gluten like fruit, vegetables, milk, meat, fish and eggs can be labeled gluten free.

– Less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten: Any unavoidable presence of gluten due to cross-contamination must test below 20 ppm. This trace amount is considered safe for most gluten-sensitive individuals.

– No gluten-containing grains: The product cannot contain wheat, rye, barley or any gluten-containing grains or derivatives like malt. Oats are allowed but must be specially processed to avoid gluten cross-contact.

– Manufactured in a gluten-free facility: To prevent cross-contamination, the product must be made in a dedicated gluten free facility, on gluten-free equipment. Shared facilities are prohibited.

– Valid third-party testing: Routine product testing must confirm less than 20 ppm of gluten and proper gluten free protocols. A documented testing program by a third party must verify compliance.

Any product labeled “gluten free” in the United States must meet all of the above requirements. This takes the guesswork out of deciphering ingredients lists and provides peace of mind that a product is gluten free as claimed.

Are Fruit Snacks Labeled Gluten Free Really Gluten Free?

Given the strict regulations, any fruit snacks labeled “gluten free” in the U.S. should in fact be safe for gluten free diets when these protocols are properly followed. Brands labeled gluten free should be using ingredients that are naturally gluten free or have been processed to avoid cross-contamination with gluten. Their facilities, equipment and procedures must ensure no exposure to sources of gluten.

However, there have been some cases of products labeled gluten free testing at higher gluten levels than permitted in spot checks by organizations like the Gluten Free Watchdog:

Brand Product Gluten Level Detected
Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks 31 ppm
Annie’s Fruit Snacks 44 ppm
Giant Fruit Snacks 27 ppm

This highlights that issues with cross-contamination can still occur even with “gluten free” labeled products. Your safest bet is sticking to brands that specialize in gluten free foods and have rigorous protocols in place to avoid any gluten. Call companies to inquire about their specific manufacturing processes if concerned.

Are Mainstream Brand Fruit Snacks Gluten Free?

Mainstream brands of fruit snacks not labeled gluten free may or may not be safe for gluten free diets. Popular brands like Welch’s, Motts, Kellogg’s, General Mills and more do not label their regular fruit snacks as gluten free. This means they likely do not follow all the required procedures to eliminate gluten exposure and cannot guarantee less than 20 ppm of gluten.

These brands produce many products containing gluten like wheat flour, barley malt and more on shared lines in shared facilities. Their fruit snacks may pick up traces of gluten through:

– Shared equipment used for wheat/gluten products
– Shared ingredients like flavorings
– Airborne gluten particles
– Improper cleaning procedures between runs

Without testing and dedicated precautions in place, it is impossible to know if these mainstream fruit snacks contain gluten cross-contamination. The levels could be significantly higher than the 20 ppm cutoff. Those following gluten free diets should avoid mainstream fruit snacks not labeled gluten free. Contacting the manufacturer provides the only way to find out their exact gluten testing and protocols.

Alternatives to Mainstream Fruit Snacks

To enjoy gummy fruit snacks safely on a gluten free diet, look for brands that specialize in gluten free products. Here are some recommended gluten free brands of fruit snacks:


Annie’s offers many organic, gluten free fruit snack products like:

– Organic Bunny Tummies
– Organic Fruit Snacks
– Organic Gummy Snacks

Their snacks are certified gluten free to less than 20 ppm. Annie’s marks gluten free items with a “GF” label. Contact them to verify their testing and manufacturing processes for assurance.

Surf Sweets

Surf Sweets makes gummy candies and fruit snacks that are free of the top 8 allergens including wheat. All items are produced in a dedicated allergen free and gluten free facility. Flavors include Fruit Me Up Tropical Mix, Summer Splash Berries, and Sour Berry Bears.

Stretch Island

Stretch Island fruit snacks come in unique shapes and flavors like Tropical Tides, Berry Splashers, and Fruitasaurus. They are manufactured in a dedicated gluten free facility and third-party tested.


Select gluten free fruit snacks from Sunkist like Pectin Bears, Gelatin-Free Fruit Flavors, Fruit Snacks Mixed Berries, Fruit Snacks Tropical Flavors and more. Contact them to confirm gluten testing practices.


Organic Sharkies fruit snacks are made with real fruit juice in fun shark shapes. They come in Berry, Tropical and Variety flavors. Sharkies are certified gluten free.

Sensible Portions

Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws and Fruit Snacks are labeled gluten free to less than 20 ppm. Flavors include Strawberry, Mixed Berry, Peach, and Tropical Blend.


MadeGood fruit snacks include Crispy Jumbles, Organic Fruit Snacks, Organic Fruit Streamers and Granola Minis. Products are certified gluten free and vegan.

Safest Fruit Snack Options When Gluten Free

When following a gluten free diet, the safest fruit snack options are:

1. Any product labeled “gluten free” to meet FDA requirements – confirm protocols by calling the manufacturer. Stick to brands dedicated to gluten free.

2. Naturally gluten free whole fruits – fresh, frozen, dried or pureed into homemade fruit snacks.

3. DIY fruit snacks made at home with gluten free gelatin, pectin, juices and purees. This avoids any risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing.

4. Mainstream brands only if the company verifies gluten testing and production procedures showing no gluten exposure.


In summary, fruit snacks labeled “gluten free” should be safe for gluten free diets when following regulations. But occasional issues with labeling and manufacturing processes mean dedicated brands are a safer choice. Those avoiding gluten should avoid mainstream brands of fruit snacks, unless contacting the manufacturer to verify gluten testing and protocols. To be 100% safe, opt for whole fresh fruits or make DIY fruit snacks at home. With some careful label reading and brand investigation, fruit snacks can still be enjoyed as part of an gluten free diet.

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