Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people choosing to avoid gluten for medical reasons or personal preferences. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, sticking to a strict gluten free diet is essential to avoid adverse health effects. For others, eliminating gluten is simply a lifestyle choice they find beneficial. Whatever the motivation, finding tasty gluten free food options makes following this type of diet much easier.
Ice cream is a beloved dessert for many, but determining which brands and flavors are gluten free can require some detective work. Blue Bunny is one of the largest ice cream manufacturers in the United States, making it a go-to option for ice cream lovers. But does Blue Bunny’s popular vanilla ice cream qualify as gluten free? Here is a comprehensive look at what ingredients are used in Blue Bunny’s vanilla ice cream, and whether any could contain traces of gluten.
What is gluten?
Before exploring the ingredients found in Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream, it helps to understand what exactly gluten is. Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and other closely related cereal grains. The two specific proteins that make up gluten are gliadin and glutenin. When flour from these grains is mixed with water, the gluten proteins bind together and create elastic strands that allow dough to stick together and rise. This gives breads, cakes and other baked goods their chewy texture.
For most people, consuming gluten proteins causes no issues. But for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, vomiting and constipation. The only treatment is following a strict lifelong gluten free diet, avoiding any foods, drinks or medications that contain gluten.
So any product labeled “gluten free” should not include any ingredients derived from wheat, rye, barley or related grains. Oats are inherently gluten free, but are often contaminated with gluten during growing and processing, so purity protocols are needed.
Common sources of gluten
Since gluten comes primarily from wheat and a few other cereal grains, ingredients like wheat flour, barley malt, and rye are obvious sources of gluten that need to be avoided. However, gluten can also show up in less obvious places, including:
– Bread crumbs or croutons
– Brewing ingredients like malt
– Brown rice syrup
– Soy sauce or other condiments
– Imitation meats
– Flavored coffee creamers
– Flavored vodkas or liqueurs
– Processed meat products
– Thickening agents like roux
– Panko breadcrumbs
– Beer and lagers
So it is important to check all ingredient labels carefully, even on products that don’t seem like an obvious source of gluten. Contamination during processing can also be an issue, especially with oats.
Key ingredients in Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream
Now that we understand exactly what gluten is and where it can show up, we can dive into the ingredient list for Blue Bunny’s vanilla ice cream. The most up-to-date ingredient information can be found on the Blue Bunny website.
According to Blue Bunny, these are the main ingredients used in their classic vanilla ice cream:
– Corn syrup
– Whey protein concentrate
– Mono and diglycerides
– Guar gum
– Locust bean gum
– Polysorbate 80
– Annatto (color)
– Natural flavor
So there are no obviously gluten-containing ingredients like wheat, barley, rye or malt listed. But we still need to take a closer look at each ingredient to determine if any could be a hidden source of gluten.
Milk is the base ingredient for any ice cream. All milk contains the milk sugar lactose, protein casein and whey, and small amounts of minerals like calcium, potassium and phosphorous. Because it comes from cows, milk does not naturally contain any gluten. Any type of plain milk, including whole milk, 2% reduced fat milk, 1% lowfat milk and nonfat milk, can be considered gluten free. Milk is a safe ingredient for any gluten free diet as long as it does not have any additional flavorings or additives.
Like milk, cream is a dairy product made by separating the higher fat portion from whole milk. Heavy cream, light cream and half-and-half are all examples of cream that may be used in ice cream production. Because it is another derivative of plain cow’s milk, cream does not naturally contain gluten. Both cultivated cream and naturally fermented cream products like sour cream and creme fraiche are safe bets for gluten free diets when sold on their own without additional ingredients.
Many different types of sugars may be used to add sweetness to ice cream. Plain white granulated cane sugar does not contain any gluten. Other common sweeteners like brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, maple syrup, honey, molasses and corn syrup are all naturally gluten free as well. However, some flavored syrups could potentially have sources of gluten added, so plain varieties are safest.
Corn syrup is made by processing cornstarch down to glucose molecules. Because it starts from corn, there are no gluten proteins present in properly purified corn syrup. Plain corn syrup is fine for gluten free diets, though again flavored varieties could possibly have sources of gluten added. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) similarly does not contain gluten in its basic form.
Whey protein concentrate
Whey is the liquid part of milk that separates from the curds during cheese production. This whey naturally contains some milk proteins and sugars. To make whey protein concentrates and isolates, the whey goes through additional filtration and purification steps to concentrate the protein fraction. Because whey comes straight from dairy milk, whey concentrates and isolates do not contain gluten unless cross-contamination occurs during processing. Reputable manufacturers follow good manufacturing practices to prevent this.
Mono and diglycerides
These ingredients are types of emulsifiers used to prevent separation and help incorporate air into ice cream. Mono and diglycerides are typically derived from vegetable oils, most commonly soybean and canola oil. Some mono and diglycerides may come from animal fats as well. Because the sources are gluten-free oils, these emulsifiers can also be considered gluten free.
Guar gum is a stabilizer and thickener extracted from guar beans. Like other bean gums, guar gum does not contain gluten. However, cross-contamination is possible if wheat flour is processed in the same facility. Reputable manufacturers follow purity protocols to prevent this.
Locust bean gum
This gum stabilizer comes from carob tree seeds. Locust bean gum does not naturally contain any gluten. As with guar gum, there could be a small risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing depending on what other products share the processing equipment.
Polysorbates are emulsifiers derived from sorbitol alcohol and oleic acid. These plant-based ingredients do not contain any gluten. Pure polysorbate 80 is generally considered gluten free.
Carrageenan is a thickener and stabilizer that comes primarily from red seaweed. All types of carrageenan, including degraded forms, are devoid of gluten. Carrageenan is safe for gluten free diets as long as no gluten-containing grains are used during processing, which is uncommon.
This natural coloring comes from the pulp of annatto tree seeds. In its pure form, annatto extract does not contain gluten. No gluten-containing grains are involved in annatto production.
Natural flavors are proprietary blends of ingredients isolated from plant, animal or microbial sources. The exact components do not need to be disclosed. While natural flavors themselves do not contain gluten, the flavoring substances are sometimes processed with flour or cereal alcohols that could introduce cross-contamination. Responsible manufacturers use gluten-free grains or have strict allergen control procedures. Contacting the company is the best way to determine if their natural flavors are gluten free when a product does not have an explicit “gluten free” claim.
No gluten-containing ingredients
Looking closely at the ingredients list for Blue Bunny’s classic vanilla ice cream, there are no overt sources of gluten like wheat, barley, rye or malt. The dairy, sugars, corn syrup and gums are all naturally gluten free in their pure forms. There is only one ingredient – natural flavors – that could potentially harbor hidden gluten depending on manufacturing processes.
Is cross-contamination a risk?
For oats and certain other ingredients, cross-contamination with gluten-containing grains is a concern during growing and processing. Responsible gluten free brands follow purity protocols to separate crops and sanitize equipment to limit cross-contamination risks.
The major ingredients used in Blue Bunny ice cream – milk, cream, sugar – do not have the same cross-contamination concerns because they do not grow alongside gluten-containing grains. The gums, corn syrup and other minor ingredients go through extensive refinement and processing as well, limiting risks.
Blue Bunny’s designated gluten free flavors are produced in dedicated facilities to prevent any cross-contamination. While their classic vanilla ice cream is not made in an exclusively gluten free facility, it still seems unlikely that significant cross-contamination would occur given the nature of the ingredients. However, those with celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity may wish to err on the side of caution.
No gluten-free labeling
After thoroughly reviewing the ingredients list and potential for cross-contamination, Blue Bunny’s classic vanilla ice cream appears to be gluten free in composition. However, it is important to note that Blue Bunny does not label their classic vanilla ice cream as “gluten free.” Their website states:
“No Blue Bunny products contain wheat as an ingredient. However, our products are manufactured on shared equipment that is also used to produce products with wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustacean shellfish, milk, and soy as ingredients. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that any Blue Bunny product is 100% free of these allergens.”
So while unlikely to contain significant traces, there does seem to be some risk of gluten cross-contamination during manufacturing. People with celiac disease or wheat allergy should reach out to Blue Bunny directly for the most current information, as manufacturing can change over time. Those with mild gluten sensitivity may feel comfortable trying the classic vanilla and seeing if they tolerate it well. But the lack of an explicit “gluten free” claim means there are no guarantees the ice cream will be completely gluten free.
Look for certified gluten free
For those adhering to a strict gluten free diet, the safest bet is to look for ice cream that has been third-party tested and certified gluten free. The certification process validates that all ingredients and manufacturing processes are free of gluten cross-contamination risk.
Blue Bunny does indicate that the following flavors are produced in dedicated gluten free facilities and third-party certified:
– Chocolate lovers chocolate
– Cookies and cream
– Mint chocolate chip
– Strawberry shortcake
– Vanilla bean
Sticking with certified gluten free flavors provides peace of mind and assurance for sensitive individuals. Other brands like Talenti, Ben and Jerry’s, So Delicious and Breyers all offer certified gluten free ice cream options as well. Checking for a certification logo from organizations like the Celiac Support Association and Gluten Intolerance Group makes verification easy.
Along with avoiding gluten, those adhering to a gluten free diet also need to watch out for trace amounts of barley malt, rye, triticale and potentially oats that could trigger symptoms. Blue Bunny’s classic vanilla ice cream does not contain these ingredients, though malt may be present in other flavors.
Many ice creams also come into contact with cookies, candies and other mix-ins that likely are not gluten free. Opting for a plain gluten free flavor avoids any chance of cross-contamination from additions. Some brands use equipment like cones that may share lines with gluten-containing waffle cones or wafers as well. Again, choosing certified gluten free products reduces these risks. Reading labels carefully and asking questions is key for gluten free shoppers.
After reviewing the ingredients and manufacturing details, Blue Bunny’s popular classic vanilla ice cream appears likely to be gluten free in composition. However, since it is not explicitly labeled gluten free or made in a dedicated facility, there is some small risk of cross-contamination with gluten. For people with celiac disease or wheat allergy, enjoying one of Blue Bunny’s certified gluten free flavors would be the much safer choice. For those simply avoiding gluten by preference, trying the classic vanilla and checking for personal tolerance may be an option. Overall the ingredients themselves seem gluten free, but without third-party testing there is no absolute guarantee. Checking labels and calling companies with any questions is always advisable to ensure gluten free status.