The allure of pink and blue gluten-free cotton candy clouds is strong. My first memory of cotton candy is when my grandparents took me to the circus. That was where I discovered my love of cotton candy and my utter terror of clowns. I haven’t been back to the circus (or anywhere clowns exist), but I seek out cotton candy as often as possible. After I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2005, I had to find out “is cotton candy gluten-free?”. Read on to find out what’s in those fluffy balls of sugary heaven.
Cotton candy (also known as candy floss or fairy floss) started off as one of the easiest gluten-free “candies” to research. The ingredients? Sugar (lots and lots of sugar) and a dash of food coloring and flavoring. We know sugar is gluten-free, but what about the food coloring and flavor?
This sugary cottonlike fluff is made by heating and liquefying the sugar and then spinning it to create cotton candy. Food coloring is added to change the pure white cotton candy to the traditional pink or blue. However, cotton candy has become quite fancy and you may see Bacon or Chocolate Cherry Cotton Candy.
Most likely, Gold Medal brand is used to color and flavor your cotton candy. Gold Medal has been manufacturing all things cotton candy for decades. Their most famous cotton candy color and flavor combos are Boo Blue (Blue Raspberry) and Silly Nilly (Pink Vanilla). Per Joanne at Gold Medal, both products are gluten-free.
IS ARTIFICIAL FOOD COLORING GLUTEN-FREE?
Yes! The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted approval to just seven synthetic food colorings for use in food.
Artificial Food Colorings created by molecular compounds (none of these food dyes contain gluten)
IS NATURAL FOOD COLORING GLUTEN-FREE?
Yes! None of the FDA’s Color Additives Approved for Use in Human Food are derived from gluten or contain gluten.
Natural food coloring pigments are created from mineral including sodium copper, vegetables such as beets or carrots, or animals.
You might be scratching your head and saying “Animals?”. Not to go off the rails, but the natural food color Carmine (E120), a red dye derived from the cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus. A bug. A red bug. Sorry. I had to share as this completely grossed me out. Now I must cut red foods out of my diet. I’m SO glad nachos aren’t red.
Getting back on track, based on the ingredients, cotton candy is gluten-free. Of course, as with all other foods and personal care products, cross-contamination and manufacturing can be an issue. It’s easier said than done to find the cotton candy’s ingredient label at your local carnival or amusement park.
Your best option is container cotton candy. It might not be as fun as the made to order stuff on a stick, but you’ll know exactly what’s in it and how the cotton candy is manufactured. If you really want cotton candy at the fair, visit the vendor directly and ask them to see the flavor/food color mix being used.
GLUTEN-FREE COTTON CANDY IN CONTAINERS AND POUCHES
1. Charms Fluffy Stuff Cotton Candy is labeled gluten-free (even their Birthday Cake Cotton Candy!). Fluffy Stuff is also available in popular seasonal varieties, including Snow Balls (Christmas), Cotton Tails (Easter), Spider Webs (Halloween), and Scaredy Cats (Halloween).
2. Fun Sweets Cotton Candy containers are labeled gluten-free
3. Parade Cotton Candy is labeled gluten-free
4. Rainbow Cotton Candy is gluten-free (via their website)
SWEET COTTON CANDY FACTS
In 1904, William Morrison and John C. Wharton, Tennessee candy makers, sold 68,655 boxes of their "Fairy Floss" at the St. Louis World’s Fair. via Gourmet Magazine
Cotton candy has about 100 calories and less sugar than a can of regular soda. via How Stuff Works
America celebrates National Cotton Candy Day on December 7th
So what do you think? Pink or Blue Cotton Candy? On a stick or in a bag? Share your cotton candy cravings with the Hold the Gluten Community in the comments below!