Hershey's Chocolate: Gluten-Free Rumors - Celiac Disease
Oct 23 2009

Hershey's Chocolate: Gluten-Free Rumors

Recently, an Examiner.com writer published a piece about Hershey’s chocolate. He wrote that his friend called the company and they told them that they lines are dusted with flour, so he is telling celiacs to avoid Hershey’s chocolate. I was very frustrated to read this, because I eat Hershey’s chocolate, and have checked their labels frequently for changing allergen information (as we all should). I checked the Hershey website for allergen information and found that they will label any allergen information on the package: http://www.hersheys.com/nutrition/allergens.asp They clearly state that they do not use an allergen on the line if it is not in the product (ie. dusting the line with flour if there is no flour in the product).

I went on to call the company today, to find out exactly what the customer service people are telling callers. I called 1-800-HERSHEY and asked for product information, then pressed 3 for nutrition and allergen information, then 2 for gluten information, listened to the automated message, and then pressed 0 to speak with a customer service person. I had to give my last name and zip code, and then I asked my question. I said “I read an article about the product lines being dusted with flour, is this true?”

The customer service person that I spoke to was very upset that this information is floating around because it is completely untrue. She said that they take allergens very seriously, and that “wheat is a major protein allergen, and we do not dust the lines with wheat flour.” She also said that they had a partial gluten-free product list (not complete, because they are still working on the details), that includes the milk chocolate, milk chocolate with almonds, Hershey’s kisses, Jolly Ranchers, and some others. She clarified again that they take allergens very seriously and that they do not dust the line with wheat flour. She said that if they do have anything else on the line with allergens, they will have an allergen statement on the packaging  (as required by law), such as “Manufactured on shared equpiment with peanuts and wheat”. She asked why I was calling about gluten and I told her about celiac disease (probably for their call records, so they can keep track of the reasons that people call the company).

There is a HUGE lesson to learn from this; research for yourself! Never trust someone you read just because someone wrote it. Call the company for yourself and ask. Check their website. Use your brain. If something doesn’t sound right, then look further.

Article Written by:

Kyle Eslick is the founder of Gluten Free Media, as well as the creator of the popular Celiac Support Groups page. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+!

Comments

  1. Tiffany Janes says:

    Tiffany – that is one of the oldest myths that keeps coming up and I”d love for it to finally die! But truthfully, I’m not sure we can kill any of these old myths. It seems to me that some people would rather make others neurotic and parnoid than to share factual information. The reason I decided to leave a wildly popular celiac forum was that when I inquired about gluten-free dining, 48 of 50 replies told me I could NOT eat out or travel, period! Personally I’ve never traveled more or eaten better when dining out than I have since my celiac dx. Thank goodness I used my own brain to make a decision on those issues! Thanks for taking the time to share accurate information about Hershey’s products – I too like a plain chocolate bar every now and then 🙂

  2. Thanks very much for posting this. I agree 100% about using your brain to help decipher “the wheat from the chaff.”-Wow that was a bad pun!
    Bottom line is that knowledge is the best defense-the more research and well informed people are, the better they are equipped to make an independent and well thought out decision for themselves.

  3. Kyle Eslick says:

    I hadn’t seen the Examiner.com article you mentioned in your post, but that would also raise a flag with me. Hopefully that person can print a retraction of some sort. If I was Hershey’s, I would do everything I could to get that corrected. Thanks for clearing this up!

  4. Jennifer Harris says:

    I read the Examiner.com article and can’t believe that person thought they had done a thorough amount of research to jump to their conclusion. I am constantly trying to debunk these types of myths, but I have found that some people just tend to believe what they are told and never do a lick of their own research.

  5. Christine says:

    This is all very scary for celiacs, trying to sort through the myths, the truths. I have been trying to find out about reeses peanut butter cups and have found that hershey’s wont disclose rye, barley or oats. I have no idea if this is true or not. Hershey’s is the one company with the most conflicting information on the web and I just wish I knew, for me and my kids, what we can and cannot eat. If labeling was just clearer, we could all eat a bit more safely.. Thank you for all you do!!

    • Tiffany Jakubowski says:

      Christine- That is why I always suggest checking the company website or calling them directly. I am not sure what you mean about Hershey not disclosing rye, barley, or oats. These ingredients would be clearly listed in the ingredients list for the product you are checking. As for cross contamination issues (such as “flour on the line”) you would have to contact the company to ask for sure.

      I don’t think finding out ingredients and cross contamination information is nearly as hard as people make it. Read the label. Check the COMPANIES website. Call the COMPANY. That is how you get the information.

      • Christine says:

        I called Hershey and the representative told me Natural flavoring is proprietary information and the they don’t know if its gluten free. They only disclose what they know. I have called companies who have told me the same thing when it comes to natural flavorings. I do my best. I am only 6 months into it and I am sorry but I find it difficult. You could be a bit more understanding and supportive.

        • Tiffany Jakubowski says:

          Christine- I apologize if my reply sounded unsupportive in any way. That was never my intention. I understand that you find it difficult, as most people do. That is why I gave you my tips and hints, to help you, not to be rude. I want people to see that it is easier than they think it is. I think we (all) make it harder that it has to be because we are frustrated or afraid. The bottom line is to do the research and if you still don’t know, then go with your gut and don’t eat something that doesn’t seem right. I do understand, and I support you in the only way I know how, which is to share what I know and what I have learned.
          As Tiffany Janes said, the rep you spoke with must have been misinformed. They may not be allowed to tell callers what “natural flavoring” consists of, but someone in the chain of command knows, and they know if it contains allergens, because they are requried to know by law. While barley and rye are not part of the top 8 allergen list, wheat is, so it is not allowed to “hide” in “natural flavorings.” That makes one thing easier.

          • Gena says:

            What good does it do us knowing that wheat will not be hidden in “natural flavorings” if barley & rye can be hidden in it. Isn’t one just as bad as the other for us?

            • Tiffany Jakubowski says:

              Gena- The question is hidden ingredients, right? According to experts it is very unlikely to see gluten-containing ingredients “hidden” in food as “natural flavoring.” As mentioned, wheat is a top 8 allergen, and must be declared on the ingredients list. Barley and Rye are not included in this law, but are rarely “hidden” in general ingredients like “natural flavoring.” Rye flour is usually used in bread products, and barley is usually found in the form of barley malt, a sweetener.

              See http://glutenfreedietitian.com/articles/BLOGFlavoringsExtractsAreTheyGlutenFreeBlog.10.pdf for a nice explanation.

  6. The one I have heard is that the small bars run a risk of CC because Hershey’s recycles the melted chocolate when making the different little bars. . But I’ve never heard the dusting part.

    • Tiffany Jakubowski says:

      Ginger- That is an interesting thought, have you called to ask? I haven’t heard that before, so I think I will call and check in to that one….. Thanks!

  7. Tiffany Janes says:

    Christine – the other Tiffany here. When someone tells you they can’t confirm if a product is gluten-free, ask to speak to their supervisor. It seems you spoke to a poorly informed Hershey’s rep on the phone. Also, Reeses peanut butter cups have always gluten-free, which the rep should have been able to verify for you as well.

  8. Spencer says:

    Considering everyone loves chocolate for everyone’s peace of mind it needs to be clearly determined whether any product is suitable for celiacs or not.

  9. Michael says:

    Word of advise: avoid any foods which on thier label includes the phrase, contains “Natural Ingredients”, By “Current” US LAW disclosure of wheat as an ingredient is “Only” voluntary Gluten is used in the food industry far more often than you might assume and hidden at that. Gluten is used as a binder, as a cheap filler, as a way to boost the products protein level and also as flavoring.
    FOR INSTANCE: currently a container of Yogurt, may or may not contain the words Gluten Free, nor include “Wheat” as an ingredient. I work in a Yogurt production facility, and I am one of the people who put “MALT” (Gluten) in yogurt as well as other pro-biotics, during the production process. MALT is included in the beginning (pre fermintation process as well as pre packaging process). Point being; that any food item including the words “natural ingredients” or “flavoring” can at present time include almost anything not considered by the FDA of the 80’s to be harmful. In the 80’s the FDA considered “Wheat” as being anything;But, Harmful. I’m a mid-stage Celiac sufferer and return home sick occassionally just from some of the Malt dust floating around in the facility at any given time. Be careful! Stay vigilant!

  10. Lauren says:

    Thank you for posting this! I ate a Hershey snack size bar and my stomach started to hurt like when I have gluten. I thought maybe I was having a lactose issue, but it they have wheat around, no wonder I got sick. These companies just don’t understand that they are playing with peoples health.

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