The naturally occurring proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a wheat and rye combination) are called gluten. Gluten helps these grains maintain their shape and consistency. People who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease need to avoid gluten in the foods they eat. Gluten can cause a variety of symptoms in people who are sensitive to it, including:
- abdominal pain
Some foods — such as bread, cake, and muffins — are obvious sources of gluten. Gluten can also be an ingredient in foods you might not expect to find it in, such as marshmallows.
Many marshmallows produced in the United States only consist of sugar, water, and gelatin. This makes them dairy-free, and in most cases, gluten-free.
Ingredients to look
Some marshmallows are made with ingredients such as wheat starch or glucose syrup. These are derived from wheat. They aren’t gluten-free and should be avoided. However, many marshmallow brands in the United States are made with corn starch instead of wheat starch. This makes them gluten-free.
The only way to be completely sure that the marshmallows you’re buying are safe to eat is by checking the label. If the label isn’t specific enough, you can call the company that manufactures them. Usually, a gluten-free product will be labeled as such under its Nutrition Facts label.
Watch out for
- wheat protein
- hydrolyzed wheat protein
- wheat starch
- wheat flour
- triticum vulgare
- triticum spelta
- hordeum vulgare
- secale cereal
If you don’t see the gluten-free label, look at the ingredients list. It can help you determine if some ingredients contain gluten.
Be cautious with
- vegetable protein
- natural flavorings
- natural colorings
- modified food starch
- artificial flavor
- hydrolyzed protein
- hydrolyzed vegetable protein
Many marshmallow brands in the United States are made with corn starch instead of wheat starch or wheat byproducts. While corn starch is gluten-free, reading labels is still important. There can be other flavors or manufacturing processes that may contain gluten. Marshmallow brands that state they’re gluten-free on the label include:
- Dandies vanilla marshmallows
- Trader Joe’s marshmallows
- Campfire Marshmallows by Doumak
- most brands of marshmallow fluff
Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows are also usually gluten-free. But, according to a Kraft company consumer helpline representative, some of their products — such as marshmallows — have a 50 percent chance of containing natural flavorings sourced from suppliers who use grains with gluten. For this reason, their marshmallows aren’t labeled gluten-free.
Jet-Puffed Marshmallows are probably safe to eat for someone who is gluten intolerant. But they may not be the best choice for someone who has celiac disease.
What about cross-contamination?
Some marshmallows are gluten-free, but are packaged or manufactured in factories that make products that contain gluten. These marshmallows may have trace amounts of gluten in them that is caused by cross-contamination with other products.
Some people with gluten sensitivity may be able to tolerate these small amounts of gluten. But others, such as those with celiac disease, may not be able to safely eat them.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations permit foods to be labeled as gluten-free if they contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Trace amounts of gluten — such as those caused by cross-contamination — are less than 20 ppm. These aren’t included on Nutrition Facts labels.
Brands that might have cross-contamination ingredients include some flavors of Peeps, a holiday-themed marshmallow, manufactured by Just Born.
Peeps are made with corn starch, which doesn’t contain gluten. However, some varieties may be made in factories that also produce gluten-containing products. If you’re in doubt about a particular flavor, check the Just Born website or call their consumer relations department. Some Peeps products list gluten-free on their label. These are always safe to eat.
The bottom line
Many, though not all, marshmallow brands in the United States are gluten-free. Some marshmallows may contain trace amounts of gluten. These may not be easily tolerated by people with celiac disease. People with mild gluten intolerance may be able to eat marshmallow brands that aren’t labeled as gluten-free.
Gluten may get into products through cross-contamination during the manufacturing process. Some marshmallows may also contain ingredients, such as natural flavorings, that are sourced from wheat or other gluten-containing grains.
The only way to be sure you’re getting gluten-free marshmallows is to buy those which say gluten-free on their label. When in doubt, you can also call the manufacturer for additional information.