Consumer News

Does Popcorn Contain Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in many cereal grains, and since popcorn is a product of a whole grain, it can be mistakenly assumed to contain gluten. People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity avoid gluten foods like the plague and tend to be wary of popcorn for this very reason. However, many sources have confirmed that popcorn is gluten-free and wheat-free, and that it is definitely a healthy snack without any major disadvantages as such.

There are many such cereal grains without gluten; millets, sorghum and corn. Healthline said that this presumption could be due to the fact that proteins called maize prolamins are found in corn, which is linked to gluten intolerance in some cases that studies have proven in the past. Research said that some people with celiac disease could develop inflammation as a response to these proteins, hence these individuals need to remain on guard while consuming the mundane and ubiquitous snack. 

Since maize is considered an alternative to wheat for people with celiac disease, this may be additionally confusing to them with good reason. “In some CD patients, as a rare event, peptides from maize prolamins could induce a celiac-like immune response by similar or alternative pathogenic mechanisms to those used by wheat gluten peptides,” confirms one such study. 

Is popcorn with additives gluten-free?

Certain popcorn with added flavors and ingredients including wheat starch, malt and soy sauce may contain some gluten according to Healthline. Reading the flavors on the label and checking the list of ingredients to see if there are no other ingredients apart from popcorn, corn kernels or salt could help consumers know beforehand. This puts the onus on the consumer as much as on the manufacturer. This is because it's mandatory for manufacturers to disclose potential allergic ingredients like wheat as per the law. 

When other glutinous foods are being manufactured in a shared facility, there are chances of ingredients overlapping and contaminating the popcorn that otherwise may be gluten-free. The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) mandates that gluten-free products must have 20 parts per million (ppm) of glutens and that food manufacturers must be honest in their disclosure. In worst case scenarios, directly contacting companies and asking them about their practices could provide some clarity. 

According to regulations specified by the FDA, natural gluten containing products can be processed to remove the gluten. There is no other body that can certifiy products as gluten-free. The rule is very clear that the FDA does not endorse any third party certifications and asks consumers to be aware of misleading false certifications.

Of course, for peace of mind, the safest route to consuming gluten-free popcorn at the end of a rough day is to make it by yourself by cooking corn kernels in a microwave or stove, advises Healthline.   

popcorn Popcorn is wrongly considered to contain glutenous ingredients. However, if added flavors are part of the mix, there could be some cross contamination. JoshArdle Photography, CC BY-ND 2.0