The holidays call for festive beverages to toast the season. Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy New Year! Weddings also call for festive beverages to toast the happy couple, the father of the bride, the DJ, and whoever else makes the party rock.
When alcohol isn’t an option, sparkling cider fits the festive bill. In our family, we break out the Knudsen sparking cherry and sparkling pear cider. It looks so lovely in my parents’ etched wine glasses. For an extra splash of special, I put a frozen cherry in the bottom of each glass. My niece and nephews have grown up tipping glasses of Knudsen Family’s sparkling cider at every holiday dinner. They look forward to it.
A few weeks ago, I noticed a large display of new Knudsen specialty flavors at Sprouts: caramel apple, green apple, cranberry, and glogg. I got really excited, especially about the glogg, which we tried for the first time last year when Crate and Barrel offered a pricey non-alcoholic, gluten free, non-sparkly version. We waited until Crate and Barrel slashed the price in half and then we guzzled eight bottles. It tasted best when served warm. Why not try this new sparkly version, which had a much more palatable price tag of $2.99 per bottle?
I excitedly brought home the glogg and taste tested it. Yum!! With a spicy, fruity flavor and just enough fizz, I thought it would make an awesome addition to the bar offerings for my gluten free, alcohol free wedding.
The next day I got glutened. Somehow. Somewhere. I couldn’t figure out what got me, but that’s often what happens with celiac disease. Gluten sneaks in somewhere when we least expect it, and bam! GI fight.
It took a week for me to suspect the glogg. I went onto R.W. Knudsen Family’s website. Knudsen is owned by the J.M. Smucker Company. It takes product claims seriously, from non-GMOs to organic to gluten free. The FAQs page offers the following about products that are gluten free:
“The following R.W. Knudsen Family products are verified “gluten-free.” The “gluten-free” claim can be found on the label next to the list of ingredients:
R.W. Knudsen Family Spritzer Sparkling Beverages
R.W. Knudsen Family Recharge® Sports Beverage Mixes (powder)
“It is important to note the FDA has not yet defined the term “gluten-free” or established rules for making a “gluten-free” claim on a food product; however, “gluten-free” claims are permitted, and each manufacturer is responsible for determining whether or not its products are “gluten-free.””
I looked on the bottle of glogg: no gluten free stamp. Hmm. So I wrote to the company. The first response said they couldn’t comment on whether or not the glogg was gluten free without the UPC code. I sent that and waited two weeks. Here’s what I got back:
“Dear Mr. E___,
Thank you for your inquiry regarding the presence of gluten in one of our R.W. Knudsen Family® products. For more than 115 years, providing our consumers with the highest quality products has been of paramount importance to Smucker Natural Foods. Quality products begin with quality ingredients and we employ comprehensive procurement procedures to ensure our products contain only the finest ingredients from reputable suppliers.
In response to your inquiry, R.W. Knudsen Family® products does not contain ingredients derived from gluten. However, it does not meet our criteria for “gluten free” claims for one or more reasons. Our criteria for “gluten free” claims are aligned with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.
Smucker Natural Foods criteria for making “gluten free” claims include:
- Ingredient Screening – The ingredient cannot contain gluten sources such as wheat, rye, barley or their derivatives or hybrids. We also review for the presence of oats.
- Testing – While there is currently not a commercially available test to detect the presence of oats, the product must be tested to verify that it contains less than 20 parts per million of detectable gluten sources.
- Manufacturing Procedures – In addition, facilities that manufacture verified “gluten free” products must have a comprehensive gluten management program. All equipment used in the manufacture of products containing any gluten or oat source must be thoroughly cleaned prior to producing a product that is “gluten free.” These procedures must be validated and inspected after each clean-up.
Consumer Relations Representative
Ref # 10738123″
I was shocked. Juice not meeting the criteria for being gluten free? Yikes! I looked at the bottles of all the other sparkling cider flavors and none of them contain a gluten free stamp, either.
So, be warned. Just because it appears to be gluten free doesn’t mean it is gluten free. Even juice.