Are Haribo Gummy Bears gluten-free? People are confused because some people list them as a gluten-free candy and other’s don’t. This is likely because of 2 controversial ingredients in the Haribo Gummy Bear ingredient label: Glucose (made from wheat or corn) and Dextrose (made from wheat or corn).
Does this mean Haribo Gummy Bears aren’t celiac-safe? Why would so many people list them as a gluten-free candy? Let’s breakdown the food science to find out.
Before we talk about if Haribo Gummy Bears are Gluten-Free, let’s first talk about if generally, Gummy Bears are gluten-free. To know this, you need to know how to check food labels for gluten.
Gummy bear wise, gluten can show up as brown rice syrup, barley malt, natural flavors, and more. Now some of these ingredients, are safe in the USA if the product says it’s gluten-free. Other times they are definitely unsafe, or require further follow-up with the manufacturer to verify the ingredients are gluten-free.
So are gummy bears gluten-free? Mostly, but it’s important you’re always checking the food label to make sure.
In determining if Haribo Gummy Bears are gluten-free, let’s first look at the offending ingredients found on the Haribo Gummy Bear label: Glucose (made from wheat or corn) and Dextrose (made from wheat or corn) both are causes for concern for consumers.
And understandably so, wheat is one of the foods to avoid with celiac. So how come people are saying these gummy bears are celiac-safe?
It’s because Haribo Gummy Bears are celiac-safe. (Are you gasping or are you gearing up to fight me?… just let me explain)
In order to understand how Haribo Gummy Bears are in fact, celiac-safe, let’s briefly touch on the basics of celiac.
With celiac, you have to avoid the gluten protein found in gluten-containing grains, like wheat. This is because when the gluten protein is consumed with celiac, the small intestine is damaged which leads to a wide array of harmful symptoms.
It’s important to note that the offending compound here is the gluten protein, not the sugars found in wheat and other gluten containing grains.
Also of note, is that people with celiac have been researched to be able to tolerate <10mg of gluten a day without small intestinal damage. This led to the <20ppm of gluten safety standard we now have in food labeling today.
So a product is considered gluten-free if it has <20ppm of gluten.
Now that we have that refresher, we can start to unpack how Haribo Gummy Bears are gluten-free when they have wheat listed in the ingredients.
Glucose is another name for sugar, and sugar can be derived from a variety of things, including wheat. It’s important to note that glucose derived from wheat would not contain any of the wheat proteins, including gluten.
In fact, the National Celiac Association confirms that glucose is so refined that there would be likely no gluten left over, and if it was leftover, it would be below 20ppm (which is celiac-safe). The same applies for Dextrose, which is another word for glucose.
Because of this, these ingredients are allowed in gluten-free food products. However, you may see a wheat warning on these items. Do not fear, this warning is for people with wheat allergies, who do not have a generally safe threshold of exposure like celiacs.
Okay, so the glucose and the dextrose are considered gluten-free, regardless of starting material. But what about the natural flavors in Haribo gummy bears. Do these make the gummy bears not gluten-free?
Natural flavors is one the ingredients you have to be cautious of, because it can hide gluten (for more on identifying hidden gluten check out my Celiac Label-Reading Workbook). If you see natural flavors on a product that does not have a gluten-free claim or certification, you’ll want to verify with the manufacturer that they are gluten-free. Which I did.
As of 3/24/2022, Haribo states “our gummi product recipe contains both artificial and natural flavors. The natural flavors contain a mixture of naturally sourced fruit extracts that are combined to give a final sensory profile”. Because the natural flavors are fruit derived, they are not a concern. So Haribo Gummy Bears are still gluten-free.
It can be scary to see wheat pop up on the food label of something that is actually celiac-safe and for some, this is not something they are willing to eat. While we have generally celiac-safe guidelines, how your body responds matters so if you eat Haribo Gummy Bears and don’t feel good, obviously they aren’t a good choice for you.
But, in general, Haribo Gummy Bears are gluten-free and celiac-safe.
Need more help with label-reading and understanding the food label for celiac-safety?