Chewing gum is enjoyed by many as a snack, breath freshener, or method to avoid mindless eating. For those who follow a gluten-free diet, an important question is whether popular chewing gums like Extra are gluten-free.
What is Extra Gum?
Extra gum is a popular chewing gum brand owned by the Wrigley Company, a subsidiary of Mars, Incorporated. It was introduced in 1984 and has grown to include over 15 flavors like Polar Ice, Classic Bubblegum, Cool Mint, and Cinnamon. The full ingredient list varies by flavor.
Common Extra Gum Ingredients
While ingredients differ between Extra gum flavors, some common ingredients include:
- Gum base – Provides chewing texture
- Sugar – Sweetens the gum
- Corn syrup – Also provides sweetness
- Natural and artificial flavors – Provides distinct flavoring
- Soy lecithin – An emulsifier
- Aspartame – An artificial sweetener in sugar-free varieties
- Colors – Provided added color
What Ingredients Contain Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For a chewing gum to contain gluten, it would need to include ingredients derived from these grains.
Common examples of ingredients that contain gluten include:
- Wheat flour
- Malt or malt flavoring
- Barley malt
- Oats (unless certified gluten-free)
Gluten-containing grains are sometimes used as binding or bulking agents in foods. However, a review of Extra gum ingredients reveals no typically gluten-containing ingredients.
Are Cross-Contamination Risks a Concern?
Even when a product does not directly contain gluten ingredients, cross-contamination is still a concern. Cross-contamination occurs when a food product comes into contact with gluten during manufacturing.
Some individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity react to very small amounts of gluten. For these people, products made in facilities that also handle wheat or other gluten grains may be a problem.
Fortunately, most major chewing gum manufacturers are aware of gluten allergies and sensitivities. They avoid cross-contamination by dedicating certain equipment and facilities to gluten-free items.
Do Any Extra Gum Flavors Contain Gluten?
To provide a definitive answer, an examination of the ingredients list for every Extra gum flavor is needed. Here is a breakdown of whether top Extra varieties contain gluten:
- Polar Ice – No gluten ingredients
- Peppermint – No gluten ingredients
- Spearmint – No gluten ingredients
- Cinnamon – No gluten ingredients
- Bubble Gum – No gluten ingredients
- Cool Mint – No gluten ingredients
- Fresh Mint – No gluten ingredients
- Cinnamon – No gluten ingredients
- Fruit Sensations – No gluten ingredients
- Tropical Twist – No gluten ingredients
Limited Edition Flavors
- Cafe Late – No gluten ingredients
- Mango Twist – No gluten ingredients
- Watermelon Twist – No gluten ingredients
- Candy Cane – No gluten ingredients
- Cake Batter – No gluten ingredients
In reviewing over 15 current and limited edition Extra gum flavors, none contain gluten-based ingredients. Original, sugar-free, and limited edition varieties appear to be gluten-free based on their ingredient labels.
Does Extra Gum Have a “Gluten-Free” Label?
Despite no apparent gluten-containing ingredients, Extra gum packaging does not currently carry a “gluten-free” label.
In order for a product to bear a certified gluten-free label in the United States, it must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Manufacturers must test products to ensure they fall under this threshold.
Although Extra gum flavors seem to be gluten-free based on ingredients, Mars Inc. may opt not to undergo the official gluten-free certification process. This may be to avoid the added cost of testing or risk of cross-contamination.
What Do Customer Reviews Say?
Beyond just looking at the ingredients lists, customer experiences provide helpful insight into an item’s gluten-free status:
- Many customer reviews on sites like Amazon and blogs report consuming Extra gum without any issues while following a gluten-free diet.
- A frequent comment is that it is a good gluten-free alternative to gum brands that do contain gluten.
- There are few complaints of adverse reactions that indicate gluten cross-contamination.
- Those who have contacted Mars Inc. report being told the products do not contain gluten ingredients.
While anecdotal, these reviews support Extra’s gluten-free status for most who are sensitive.
Is Extra Gum Safe for Celiac Disease?
For those with celiac disease, even small amounts of cross-contamination can trigger symptoms and intestinal damage. So is Extra gum truly safe?
According to Celiac.com, a leading information source on celiac disease, the gum base used in Extra gum products is likely derived from synthetic polymers, waxes, and resins. These compounds are gluten-free.
They advise those with celiac disease to contact manufacturers for absolute certainty. But the gum base itself does not appear to pose a risk.
For other ingredients, testing would be needed to completely rule out the presence of gluten. So there is still a chance of trace amounts.
Precautions for Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity
Until truly definitive testing is done, those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may want to take the following precautions with Extra gum:
- Avoid chewing Extra gum flavors with maltodextrin, a additive sometimes derived from wheat
- Look for lot numbers indicating the gum was made in a dedicated gluten-free facility
- Contact Mars Inc. directly to inquire about testing and manufacturing procedures
In addition, be alert to any symptoms like digestive upset that could signal gluten exposure.
Based on a review of Extra gum ingredients, customer experiences, and food allergy resources, it appears that most if not all Extra gum flavors are gluten-free.
No gluten-containing ingredients are listed on current and past Extra gum varieties. Customer reviews support that many have safely consumed it while following gluten-free diets.
However, those with celiac disease should still exercise caution and inquire with the manufacturer for the highest level of assurance. But overall, Extra gum can be considered a gluten-free chewing gum option.