Why are Snickers not certified gluten-free?

As a popular chocolate bar enjoyed by many, Snickers not being certified gluten-free often raises questions for those following a gluten-free diet. With increasing awareness around gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, food labels are an important tool for consumers to understand what’s in the products they buy. This article will explore the ingredients and manufacturing process behind Snickers to explain why they contain gluten and are not certified gluten-free.

What is gluten and why must some avoid it?

Gluten refers to the proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For most people, gluten does not cause any issues when consuming it. However, 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 abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, and more. The only treatment is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet, avoiding any foods and drinks with gluten.

In the United States, it’s estimated that 1 in 141 people have celiac disease. However, some experts believe non-celiac gluten sensitivity may affect up to 13% of the population. This rising prevalence is why certified gluten-free food labels are so vital for those requiring this diet.

What ingredients are in Snickers bars?

Snickers bars consist of a variety of ingredients, including:

  • Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, skim milk, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor)
  • Peanuts
  • Corn syrup
  • Sugar
  • Palm oil
  • Skim milk
  • Lactose
  • Soy lecithin
  • Salt
  • Egg whites
  • Artificial flavor

At first glance, most of these appear gluten-free. Peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, palm oil and other ingredients would not contain gluten. However, the milk chocolate coating and presence of barley malt is where Snickers pick up traces of gluten.

Why is milk chocolate not gluten-free?

Milk chocolate contains two concerning ingredients when it comes to gluten:

  1. Barley malt: Barley is a gluten-containing grain. Malt is made by sprouting barley and drying the barley sprouts. This process helps develop the sugars and flavors in the barley. Barley malt or malt extract is then made by extracting the sugars and nutrients from the malted barleys. It’s commonly added to foods for flavor, coloring and as a thickener. Barley malt would introduce gluten into any product, including milk chocolate.
  2. Artificial flavor: The exact source of artificial flavors is rarely disclosed. However, they can sometimes be made from gluten-containing grains. The allergen statement for Snickers bars indicates their artificial flavor contains wheat and barley.

For these reasons, the milk chocolate coating used on Snickers bars contains traces of gluten from barley malt and artificial flavors. This prevents the bars from being able to be certified gluten-free.

Why the “may contain wheat” statement matters

In addition to the milk chocolate coating, Snickers bars also have a “may contain wheat” statement on their packaging. This indicates the bars are produced in facilities that also process wheat-containing foods. Some small amount of wheat could make its way into the Snickers during production, through shared equipment and airborne particles.

For those strictly avoiding gluten, products with “may contain” warnings should also be avoided as a precaution. Even very small amounts could trigger symptoms or intestinal damage. The uncertainty around potential cross-contamination means Snickers cannot confidently claim to be gluten-free.

How are gluten-free foods certified?

For a product to bear a certified gluten-free label in the United States, it must meet the following requirements:

  • Contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This is the lowest amount that can be reliably detected.
  • No ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains, unless processed to remove gluten.
  • Manufacturing process prevents cross-contact with gluten.

The certification process confirms that requirements are met and consistently maintained. It provides assurance for consumers that the product is reliably gluten-free.

Certification programs include:

  • Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)
  • National Celiac Association Recognition Seal
  • Gluten Intolerance Group Certification Program
  • Quality Assurance International (QAI) Gluten-Free Certification

Due to the gluten sources described above, Snickers cannot meet the <20 ppm gluten threshold required for certification.

What cross-contact risks occur during manufacturing?

As a product made by a major candy company with factories that produce many different products, Snickers bars pose some risks of cross-contact with gluten:

  • Equipment used for Snickers may also be used to make wheat-based candies on shared lines.
  • Ingredients like milk powder and artificial flavors can become airborne particles in the factory and settle onto surfaces.
  • Employees may handle various ingredients and products, increasing the chance for traces to mix.
  • Packaging material is another surface for potential cross-contamination.

While dedicated gluten-free facilities keep products separate, general facilities making mass market candy bars likely have some unavoidable contact with gluten. Vigilant cleaning and allergen protocols are used to minimize this, but small amounts could still occur.

What does Snickers label say about allergens?

The Snickers label includes an “Contains milk, soy, peanut and wheat ingredients” allergen statement. This alerts consumers to the presence of milk, soy, peanuts, and wheat in the bars. Wheat is called out due to the artificial flavor, milk chocolate containing barley malt, and the possible cross-contact with wheat-based ingredients during manufacturing.

Are certain Snickers gluten-free?

No Snickers varieties are currently certified gluten-free. All Snickers sold in the United States contain milk chocolate with barley malt and artificial flavors derived from wheat and barley. They also have the “may contain wheat” statement indicating potential for gluten cross-contact during production.

In select international markets like the UK, some Snickers are labeled “gluten-free” on the back panel. However, they are not certified gluten-free. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should exercise caution and check with the manufacturer about the gluten-free status for their geographic market.

What about fun size/mini Snickers?

Fun size and miniature Snickers bars contain the same ingredients and are produced on shared equipment as regular Snickers. They also contain milk chocolate with gluten and the “may contain wheat” labeling. So mini Snickers are likewise not gluten-free.

Can you make homemade gluten-free Snickers?

Those seeking a gluten-free version of Snickers can recreate the candy bar at home with simple swaps:

  • Use certified gluten-free milk chocolate or dark chocolate
  • Replace barley malt with certified gluten-free malt extract
  • Coat peanuts in sugar instead of plain flour before roasting
  • Make sure to avoid cross-contact by thoroughly cleaning surfaces and utensils

Gluten-free Snickers can be made following recipes like:

Gluten-Free Homemade Snickers Recipe


  • 1 cup gluten-free roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3⁄4 cup gluten-free crisped rice cereal
  • 1⁄2 cup gluten-free dark chocolate chips
  • 1⁄4 cup coconut oil
  • 1⁄4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1⁄4 cup sweetened condensed milk


  1. Toss peanuts in sugar and roast at 350°F for 5 minutes
  2. Line a loaf pan with parchment and press crisped rice cereal into bottom
  3. Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil together then pour over cereal layer. Freeze 10 minutes.
  4. Stir peanut butter, sweetened condensed milk, and roasted peanuts together and spread on top of chocolate layer.
  5. Cover with more melted chocolate on top and return to freezer until set.
  6. Remove from pan, cut into bars and enjoy!

Gluten-free Snickers provide a tasty homemade option for when you’re craving the popular candy bar but need to avoid gluten!

Are there certification gaps around “may contain” warnings?

For consumers trying to avoid gluten, “may contain” statements can be frustratingly ambiguous. These warnings don’t guarantee the presence of gluten nor certify a food as gluten-free. It represents a gray area between the two.

This gap in current food certification protocols affects not just Snickers but many mass-market products made on shared lines. Having clearer standards around acceptable risk from cross-contact would empower gluten sensitive consumers to make informed choices.

Should Snickers consider getting certified?

As awareness increases around gluten-related disorders and demand for gluten-free foods grows, Snickers may consider pursuing certification in the future. This could provide the following benefits:

  • Open the products up to a wider customer base avoiding gluten
  • Increase trust and brand loyalty by meeting certification standards
  • Get ahead of competitors if more shoppers start checking labels for certifications
  • Reduce liability from gluten-sensitive consumers getting “glutened”

However, the costs involved with segregated facilities and ingredients may still be prohibitive for such large mass-market brands. But consumer pressure and market forces may eventually sway them in this direction.

Should those with celiac disease avoid Snickers?

For those with celiac disease, Snickers bars would be too high risk to consume. The presence of gluten in the milk chocolate and uncertainty from cross-contact during manufacturing is dangerous for those sensitive to even small gluten exposures. Consuming Snickers could trigger intestinal damage, symptoms, or other autoimmune reactions.

It’s best for celiacs to choose naturally gluten-free whole foods and products certified gluten-free to <20ppm. Snickers and other mass market candy bars should be avoided to stay strictly gluten-free.

What about those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity?

For those with gluten sensitivity without the autoimmune reaction of celiac disease, some experts suggest small cross-contact may be tolerable. The amount of secondhand gluten in Snickers is likely low and may potentially be safe for some with gluten sensitivity, if consumed infrequently.

However, there are no guarantees about the exact ppm, so some reaction could still occur. Those with gluten sensitivity should exercise individual caution based on personal tolerance levels and nutrition needs.


Snickers remain a beloved candy bar enjoyed by many. But for those with celiac disease or avoiding gluten, the milk chocolate coating and risks of cross-contact exclude Snickers from being gluten-free. The “may contain wheat” labeling leaves grey area around potential for traces of gluten.

While not currently certified gluten-free, Snickers may consider this option in the future as demand grows. In the meantime, those seeking a gluten-free option can try making homemade Snickers with swaps like gluten-free chocolate and malt extract. This allows for enjoying the Snickers taste safely without gluten.

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