Oscar Mayer is one of the most popular and well-known bacon brands in the United States. Many people enjoy the smoky, savory flavor of Oscar Mayer bacon for breakfast, on sandwiches, in salads and more. But an important question for those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or who follow a gluten-free diet is: Does Oscar Mayer bacon contain gluten?
The Short Answer
The short answer is no, Oscar Mayer bacon does not contain gluten. Oscar Mayer bacon is made from pork, which is naturally gluten-free. As long as no gluten-containing ingredients are added during processing, bacon does not contain gluten. According to Oscar Mayer, their standard bacon products do not contain any wheat, barley, rye or other gluten sources.
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine and causes a variety of unpleasant symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, fatigue, headache and more. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.
Even small amounts of gluten from cross-contamination can be problematic, so gluten-free individuals must be vigilant about reading labels and understanding where gluten hides. Common sources of gluten include bread, pasta, baked goods, cereals, beer and more.
Meat is Naturally Gluten-Free
All plain meats, poultry, fish and eggs are naturally gluten-free. Gluten comes from grains, not animal products. Pork, beef, chicken, turkey, fish like salmon and tuna, lamb, duck and other meats do not naturally contain gluten. So bacon that is made purely from pork with no gluten-containing additives should be gluten-free.
Potential Sources of Gluten in Bacon
While pure pork bacon contains no gluten in the meat itself, sometimes bacon can become contaminated with gluten during processing and cooking. Here are some potential sources of gluten to be aware of:
- Flour dusting – Flour may be used on the conveyor belts.
- Breading or batter – Some bacon is coated in batter or breadcrumbs.
- Spices and seasonings – Seasoning blends may contain gluten.
- Smoked flavoring – Smoke flavoring can be derived from barley malt.
- Grill marks – Grill marks may be made by branded grates dusted with flour.
- Shared equipment – Shared slicers, conveyors and fryers may be cross-contaminated.
Oscar Mayer Bacon Ingredients
To evaluate whether Oscar Mayer bacon contains gluten, we need to look at the ingredients list and understand how it is made.
According to the Oscar Mayer website, the ingredients for Original Oscar Mayer Bacon are:
- Pork cured with water, salt, smoke flavoring, sugar, sodium phosphate, erythorbate added to promote color retention.
The Oscar Mayer FAQ page states that their bacon only contains pork that is cured with water, salt, smoke flavoring, sugar and preservatives. No gluten-containing grains or additives are listed in the ingredients.
Oscar Mayer also clarifies that their bacon is not coated or breaded, does not come into contact with breading or flour on equipment, and the smoke flavoring is derived from hardwood chips, not barley malt.
Third Party Gluten-Free Certifications
In addition to reviewing the ingredients and manufacturing, we can also look for independent third party gluten-free certifications:
- Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) – Oscar Mayer has obtained GFCO certification for its original bacon according to the GFCO product directory. The GFCO requires less than 10 ppm of gluten for certification.
- National Celiac Association Recognition Seal – This seal indicates a product has been assessed for gluten cross-contact and meets the standards for gluten-free foods (less than 20 ppm). Oscar Mayer displays this seal on its bacon packaging.
These reputable third party certifications provide added assurance that Oscar Mayer bacon contains very minimal levels of gluten, if any at all.
Individual Reactions May Vary
It’s important to note that while Oscar Mayer bacon is processed to be gluten-free, trace amounts below 20 ppm can still trigger symptoms for some of the most sensitive celiac patients. Everyone has a different level of sensitivity, so individuals should evaluate how they react to Oscar Mayer bacon.
In general most gluten-free consumers can tolerate bacon that tests below 20 ppm like Oscar Mayer’s. But those with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive should exercise caution and monitor their symptoms when eating any processed food labeled gluten-free.
Other Varieties of Oscar Mayer Bacon
While the original Oscar Mayer bacon contains no gluten ingredients, other specialty varieties may differ. Anyone with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity should always carefully inspect the label and ingredients list for any bacon product.
Some examples of other Oscar Mayer bacon varieties include:
- Center Cut Bacon – Same GFCO certified gluten-free ingredients as original Oscar Mayer bacon.
- Thick Cut Bacon – Also GFCO certified and gluten-free.
- Turkey Bacon – Oscar Mayer turkey bacon contains no gluten ingredients but is processed on shared equipment with gluten-containing foods and does not carry a gluten-free certification.
- Pre-Cooked Bacon – Pre-cooked Oscar Mayer bacon is not certified gluten-free. The pre-cooked process may introduce sources of gluten through batter, flour dusting or conveyor lubricants.
- Bacon Bits – Oscar Mayer Bacos Bits do contain gluten according to the ingredients label, which lists wheat flour and wheat starch.
Verdict: Oscar Mayer Original Bacon is Considered Gluten-Free
Based on an analysis of the ingredients list, manufacturing process and gluten-free certifications, regular Oscar Mayer bacon can be considered gluten-free and safe for the gluten-free diet when consumed in normal quantities. Oscar Mayer has taken care to avoid cross-contamination and states that their original cured bacon contains no gluten from grains, additives or the production process.
However, individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use their own judgment based on their level of sensitivity and comfort level with bacon that is produced in a shared facility. Pre-cooked bacon and bacon bits from Oscar Mayer do contain gluten and should be avoided.
When in doubt, contacting Oscar Mayer directly for their guidance can provide extra assurance their bacon meets your gluten-free needs and comfort level.
Other Brands of Gluten-Free Bacon
In addition to Oscar Mayer, there are a few other reputable brands that produce bacon verified to be gluten-free:
- Nueske’s – Carries the GFCO certification and National Celiac Association recognition seal.
- Wellshire Farms – Lab tested to less than 5 ppm gluten.
- Pederson’s Natural Farms – GFCO certified and processes bacon separately from gluten-containing foods.
- Jones Dairy Farm – Lab tests confirm no detectable gluten.
- Farmland – GFCO certified for gluten-free status.
There are also many smaller local butcher shops and bacon producers that prepare dedicated gluten-free bacon free of cross-contamination. Look for a trusted source with detailed ingredient information and knowledge about gluten-free processing when evaluating bacon options.
Cooking and Serving Gluten-Free Bacon
Once you have confirmed the bacon itself is gluten-free, there are a few other tips for cooking and serving it safely for a gluten-free diet:
- Cook bacon in a skillet or on a baking sheet separate from any gluten-containing foods. Cooking together can cause cross-contact.
- Toast or prepare gluten-free bread in the oven separately from bacon to prevent drips and splatters of bacon fat, spices or smoke flavoring.
- Wash all utensils and pans thoroughly before using to cook gluten-free foods.
- Store any leftover cooked bacon pieces or drippings in a tightly sealed container separate from other gluten-free ingredients.
- Use a dedicated gluten-free condiment jar for dipping any bacon drippings or fat to prevent cross-contamination from double-dipping.
With certified brands and vigilant cooking methods, people who need to follow a gluten-free diet can still enjoy the delicious taste of bacon.
Gluten-Free Bacon Recipes
Here are some tasty recipes for enjoying Oscar Mayer or your favorite gluten-free bacon:
Make a classic BLT sandwich by layering gluten-free bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on toasted gluten-free bread. Serve with a side of gluten-free potato chips.
Top a gluten-free burger patty with cheddar cheese and 2-3 strips of bacon. Serve on a gluten-free bun with sliced tomatoes, onion, lettuce, pickles and condiments.
Cook gluten-free rigatoni pasta according to package directions. Whisk together eggs and parmesan cheese. Stir in cooked, chopped bacon. Toss bacon carbonara sauce with hot pasta and garnish with fresh parsley.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Toss trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts in olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet and top with crumbled gluten-free bacon. Roast at 400°F for 20 minutes until browned and tender.
Spinach Bacon Salad
Top fresh spinach with chopped hard boiled eggs, crumbled bacon, diced tomatoes, shredded carrots and gluten-free croutons. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing.
Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Wrap chicken breasts or tenders in 1-2 strips of bacon. Secure with toothpicks if needed. Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes until chicken is cooked through and bacon is crisp.
Coat sliced, raw bacon with brown sugar or maple syrup. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375°F, flipping once, until bacon is cooked through and coating is caramelized.
Oscar Mayer bacon is a very popular brand of bacon that is commonly available in most grocery stores. According to the ingredients, manufacturing process and third party certifications, their original cured bacon can be considered gluten-free.
Individuals with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity should evaluate their own tolerance level for bacon processed in a shared facility and determine whether trace amounts below 20 ppm could be problematic. Pre-cooked bacon or bacon bits from Oscar Mayer do contain gluten and should not be consumed.
With proper evaluation of ingredients and precautions during cooking, regular Oscar Mayer bacon can be safely enjoyed as part of a gluten-free diet in most cases.