When I hear Welch’s, my brain immediately goes to grape jelly (check out my post on Is Jelly Gluten-Free). Welch’s has thrown their hat (Easter bonnet?) into the ring with Welch’s Original Jelly Beans. I set out to answer the question, “Are Welch’s Jelly Beans Gluten-Free?” and ended up with completely conflicting information. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2005 and this is the first time I’ve ever encountered a gluten-free snafu of this kind.
Let’s begin with the fast facts, based on the ingredients in Welch’s Original Jelly Beans (see ingredient details below), Welch’s Jelly Beans are gluten-free. However, this is where my gluten-free jelly bean search went south fast. My situation is a prime example that we ALWAYS (sorry to shout) need to read labels. If I had not double-checked the product label, I would have been misinformed about Welch's Jelly Beans. Even if you think an item is gluten-free, please check every label!
Welch’s Original Jelly Beans (Concord Grape, Strawberry, White Grape Peach, Raspberry and Orange) Ingredient Details:
Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Fumaric Acid, Dried Fruit Powder (Orange, Grape, Raspberry, Strawberry), Artificial Flavors, Confectioner's Glaze, Citric Acid, Artificial Colors (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Titanium Dioxide, Red 3), Mineral Oil, Beeswax, Carnauba Wax.
In prep for my daughter’s Easter basket (that I would covertly eat while she was at school), I visited the Welch’s website FAQs:
Q. Do Welch’s products contain gluten?
A: While most of Welch’s products are gluten-free, Welch’s Filled Licorice, available in Strawberry and Grape flavors, contains wheat as an ingredient.
Cool beans (pun intended) that means Welch’s Jelly Beans are gluten-free, right? Hold up a minute…
I contacted Welch’s Frankford Candy Company’s Customer Service as their seasonal items (along with the ingredients and allergen statement) were not listed on the website. I’ve included my full e-mail to Welch’s at the end of this post. For the sake of time you could be binge watching Netflix, here’s a quick recap:
1) 1st call to Welch’s Customer Service: Rep informed me that their Welch’s Jelly Beans were gluten-free and made on a dedicated line in a factory that did not contain wheat.
2) I went to my local CVS and the Welch’s Jelly Bean bag detailed, “Made in a facility that processes peanuts, milk, soy, and WHEAT”. Um, say what?
3) 2nd call to the Welch’s Customer Service: Rep informed me that their allergen information was older than the information I had (via ingredient label). The manufacturer had not alerted Welch’s Customer Service that their jelly beans were now processed in a facility that also processes wheat.
4) Lesson learned: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS read the labels. While almost every website I visit requires consumers to call Customer Service for the most up-to-date information, this was not the case with Welch’s.
5) Online lists (including mine) and Customer Service information are a good starting point, but the ultimate details (as well as if the product has been processed in a facility that processes wheat) is required to be on all food labels due to the U.S. FDA regulations.
So, to wrap up this complicated post about something as simple as jelly beans, Welch’s jelly bean ingredients are gluten-free. However, they are processed in the same facility that processes wheat. This creates the risk for cross-contamination. Some manufacturers provide information regarding production lines and how they are cleaned. Unfortunately, since Welch’s Customer Service didn’t even know their jelly beans are now processed in a facility with wheat, they were unable to provide any additional information.
As I’ve said in other posts, the safest route for gluten-free jelly beans are to select ones that have been certified as gluten-free. The second “safest” route is jelly beans that do not contain any gluten ingredients and are manufactured in a gluten-free facility. Welch’s jelly beans (and other brands made in facilities with wheat) come in dead last in my humble opinion.
MY E-MAIL TO WELCH’S CUSTOMER SUPPORT
March 15, 2019
I just spoke with Ashley of Customer Service via phone (twice) in regards to Welch's Jelly Beans. Due to my daughter as well as myself having Celiac Disease, I need to confirm every product we consume does not contain gluten (wheat, barley, oats, or rye) or is manufactured in a facility that processes wheat.
Upon my first call, Ashley informed me that Welch's Jelly Beans were gluten-free and there was NOT wheat present in the facility. Ashley also told me the jelly beans were processed on a dedicated line. She did note that Soy, Dairy, and Peanuts were manufactured within the facility.
I went to purchase Welch's Jelly Beans at CVS on (removed my location for privacy) and the label clearly states, "Made in a facility that processes peanuts, milk, soy, and wheat".
I placed a follow-up call to Welch's Customer Service and reached Ashley again. Upon giving her the Product ID code (DA18J15), Ashley spoke with her supervisor and informed me that the jelly beans I called about were made in November 2018. However, the product data Welch's Customer Service had on file was not updated to note wheat was present in the facility. Ashley informed me that the jelly beans I obtained were newer than the jelly bean lot Welch's Customer Service had on hand.
I understand that in no way this is personally Ashley's fault in the misinformation. However, it's vital that Welch's understands the need for the most up-to-date information on Allergen labeling. Gluten is essentially poison to those of us with Celiac Disease. Misinforming customers with Celiac Disease will cause illness. Cross-contamination is a real issue and the presence of wheat in a facility can create cross-contamination. This means the product, although gluten-free, may now be contaminated with wheat.
Please update your information immediately so that no other customers are potentially made ill. Please educate your manufacturing facility that it is essential to communicate any production changes with your Customer Service and Marketing Teams.
Sincerely, Maureen Stanley
Have you ever been misinformed that a food, makeup, or personal care product was gluten-free? Share your experience with the Hold the Gluten Community in the comments below!
Final note: Welch’s also manufactures Welch’s Sour Jelly Beans. I did not include these in my post as I was not able to locate a bag at any of my local stores. Since I was unable to physically see the package and ingredient details, I am not comfortable reporting the ingredients found online.