Is Ben Jerry’s Phish Food gluten-free?

Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream is one of the brand’s most popular flavors. With chocolate, marshmallow, caramel and fudge fish swirled together in vanilla ice cream, it’s easy to see why Phish Food is a fan favorite. However, for those with dietary restrictions like gluten intolerance or celiac disease, enjoying this delicious treat may seem off limits. So is Phish Food actually gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Gluten?

Before determining if Phish Food contains gluten, it’s important to understand what gluten actually is. Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For most people, gluten poses no health concerns. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. Even small amounts of gluten can cause issues for those with gluten intolerance, so checking labels for gluten-containing ingredients is essential.

Some common foods that contain gluten include:

  • Bread, pasta, and baked goods made with wheat flour
  • Cereals, crackers, and baked goods made with barley or rye
  • Beer and ales brewed with gluten-containing grains
  • Soy sauce, salad dressings, soups and sauces thickened with wheat flour

Reading ingredient labels carefully and being aware of which grains and flours contain gluten is key for gluten-free living. Oats are naturally gluten-free, but are often contaminated with gluten during growing and processing, so opting for certified gluten-free oats is recommended.

Ben & Jerry’s and Gluten-Free Claims

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products are not specifically marketed as gluten-free. According to their website’s allergen information, Ben & Jerry’s states:

“All flavors are produced in the same equipment that processes ingredients containing wheat/gluten, milk/dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy so there is a possibility of cross contact between ingredients.”

Therefore, the brand does not make any gluten-free claims or label their products as gluten-free. However, they do note that Phish Food and many of their ice creams only contain trace amounts of gluten from cross-contact that remains after thorough cleaning of equipment in between flavors.

Ben & Jerry’s details their manufacturing and labeling practices:

“We follow all labeling regulations, including identifying any “major food allergens” (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans). In addition, although not required, we call out minor food allergens like coconut on our labels.

While our flavor ingredients do not contain gluten, wheat/gluten is present in the facility and a small amount of cross-contact is possible.

We clean extensively between flavors, but cannot guarantee that minute residue will not be present. Customers with food allergies need to be aware of this possibility.”

So while Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t make any certifiable gluten-free claims, they disclose that there is a possibility of trace amounts of gluten due to shared equipment and manufacturing lines. This gives gluten-intolerant customers the information to make their own judgments on trying flavors like Phish Food.

Ingredients in Phish Food

Checking the ingredients list of Phish Food can provide more clues as to whether it may be suitable for gluten-free diets. According to the Ben & Jerry’s website, the ingredients in Phish Food are:

Liquid sugar, skim milk, water, chocolate flavored chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, dextrose, soy lecithin [emulsifier], natural flavors), cocoa (processed with alkali), marshmallow swirl (corn syrup, sugar, skim milk, maltodextrin [tapioca], disodium phosphate), fudge fish (sugar, coconut oil, cocoa [processed with alkali], nonshellfish whey powder, soy lecithin [emulsifier], natural flavors), brown sugar, cream, soybean oil, carrageenan (seaweed extract), glycerol mono- and diglycerides (emulsifiers), guar gum, carob gum, sea salt.

The ingredients list does not contain any overt gluten sources like wheat, barley, rye or malt. The cocoa powder used is processed with alkali, which destroys the gluten protein, rendering it gluten-free.

The only potential sources of gluten to note are:

  • Maltodextrin – typically derived from corn or potato starch, but sometimes derived from wheat
  • Natural flavors – can contain gluten from wheat, barley, rye in some cases

However, Ben & Jerry’s states their maltodextrin is sourced from tapioca, not wheat. And natural flavors are likely present in very small amounts. So while not guaranteed gluten-free, these ingredients are less likely to pose a problem.

Testing Results

Some celiac advocacy and gluten-free certification groups have tested Ben & Jerry’s ice creams, including Phish Food, for the presence of gluten.

The Celiac Support Association tested Phish Food and found gluten levels below 5 ppm (parts per million), meeting the FDA standard for gluten-free labeling. However, Ben & Jerry’s has not sought official gluten-free certification for Phish Food or any flavors.

Gluten-Free Watchdog also tested Phish Food multiple times in 2015 and 2016, finding gluten levels between 5-8 ppm. So independent lab testing indicates only trace amounts of gluten in Phish Food.

Should People with Celiac Disease Eat Phish Food?

With the ingredients list, manufacturing details from Ben & Jerry’s, and independent testing results all suggesting very low levels of gluten, Phish Food ice cream is likely safe for most people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, there is no absolute guarantee it is 100% gluten-free.

The Celiac Disease Foundation notes:

“At this time, no testing has absolutely guaranteed that Ben & Jerry’s flavors are gluten-free. Ben and Jerry’s continues to warn that their products have a risk of gluten cross-contact. Individuals with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity should take this advisory seriously when considering whether to consume these products.”

So people with celiac disease need to weigh the potential risk of trace gluten exposure from Phish Food with the probability of experiencing symptoms or intestinal damage from occasional intake.

Factors like individual sensitivity levels and adherence to a strictly gluten-free diet should guide personal choices on trying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Consulting a doctor for guidance is also wise, especially for those with recently diagnosed or poorly controlled celiac disease.

Tips for Enjoying Phish Food with Celiac Disease

For those with celiac disease who decide to indulge in Phish Food based on the low risk, here are some tips to enjoy it safely:

– Consume less than 1 serving at a time, no more than 1-2 times per week
– Check for any symptoms after eating that may indicate gluten exposure
– Avoid if you have acute celiac symptoms or have recently been diagnosed
– Take proper precautions like thoroughly washing hands and surfaces after contact
– Look for other dessert options that are certified gluten-free as alternatives

Being well-informed and carefully listening to your individual body is key to balancing great taste with celiac health when indulging in ice cream like Phish Food.

Is Phish Food Dairy-Free or Vegan?

Along with avoiding gluten, some ice cream lovers also need to steer clear of dairy or animal products. Here’s a quick rundown on whether Phish Food fits a dairy-free or vegan diet:

Dairy-Free? No – Phish Food contains milk/cream as the base along with other dairy derivatives like whey powder.

Vegan? No – Phish Food contains milk, cream, and whey powder that are derived from dairy cows. The cocoa butter may also be sourced from animals.

Those avoiding dairy or vegan cannot eat Phish Food, unfortunately. Ben & Jerry’s does offer some non-dairy frozen desserts, but Phish Food is not among them currently. Check out their vegan flavors made with almond milk ice cream for a possible alternative.

The Bottom Line

So is Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food gluten-free? While not certified gluten-free and carrying some risk of cross-contact with wheat, independent testing shows Phish Food contains well below the FDA threshold for labeling items gluten-free. The ingredients also do not raise major red flags.

Most people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can likely eat Phish Food sparingly without issues. However, it’s impossible to guarantee zero traces of gluten and reactions vary person to person. Exercising caution, consulting doctors, and listening to your own body is key if enjoying Phish Food with gluten restrictions. And those avoiding dairy and vegan products will need to opt for non-dairy ice cream alternatives.

In the end, the delicious tasting Chocolatey, marshmallowy, caramely, fudgy fishy goodness of Phish Food remains tempting for many ice cream lovers living the gluten-free lifestyle. Carefully scoping out the risks and keeping consumption in moderation allows for way to plunge your spoon into one of Ben & Jerry’s most iconic flavors. Just be sure to check for any signs of symptoms afterwards and have backup dessert options too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Ben and Jerry’s use wheat in their ice cream?

No, Ben & Jerry’s does not intentionally add wheat or wheat-based ingredients to their ice cream. However, they do use shared equipment that processes wheat, so cross-contact is possible.

What flavors of Ben and Jerry’s are gluten free?

Ben & Jerry’s does not label any flavors as gluten-free or make gluten-free claims. But Phish Food and many of their flavors contain no overt gluten ingredients and test below 20ppm of gluten from cross-contact.

Is Ben and Jerry’s safe for people with celiac disease?

Most people with celiac disease can likely consume some Ben & Jerry’s in moderation but there are no guarantees it is 100% gluten-free. Those very sensitive should exercise caution and opt for certified brands.

Does Ben and Jerry’s contain wheat?

No, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream does not contain wheat as an intentional ingredient. Trace amounts of wheat from manufacturing equipment are possible but unlikely to be significant.

What Ben and Jerry’s is gluten free?

While not certified gluten-free, Phish Food, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Non-Dairy flavors are among the Ben & Jerry’s products with the lowest risk for gluten exposure. But those with celiac disease should still exercise caution.

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