Kroger: Where "Gluten-Free" Means "May Contain Wheat"

People with food allergies or sensitivities know that no matter what the colorful claims on the front of a food’s package might be, you still need to chEck the ingredients. Briana writes that her recent experience at Kroger brought this point home. The front of a chicken broth carton declared the product to be “gluten-free,” but the side of the package said “may contain wheat.” Which is it? While food packaging might brag that its contents are gluten-free, such labels aren’t yet regulated by the FDA. In the case of Briana and Kroger, this led to some confusion.

She writes:

A few days ago I bought some Kroger brand 33% less sodium chicken broth. I was happy to see that the front of the carton clearly said that it was “a Gluten Free Food” and “This food has never contained gluten.” Many processed foods contain gluten and there are no federal labeling requirements for it yet, but some companies are starting to label their foods gluten-free voluntarily.

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Some people (myself included) have to avoid gluten for health reasons, such as celiac disease or gluten sensitivity/intolerance. Even trace amounts of gluten can make someone very sick.

After I had used the supposedly gluten-free chicken broth, I was about to throw away the carton when I realized that it said in tiny print on the side, “May contain wheat.” If something contains wheat, there is no way it can be gluten-free.

I called Kroger yesterday to complain about this. They asked me the barcode on the carton, looked it up, and told me that the package was not labeled gluten free. I told them I had the carton in front of me, and it said both “gluten-free” and “may contain wheat.” (I’m including pictures I scanned of the carton.) They said they would look into it and call me back, and they would send me a $5 coupon to cover the cost of the chicken broth. I haven’t heard back from them yet.

I’m mad that that they didn’t take my complaint seriously. I’m also concerned that they deny the product is mislabeled. Celiac disease alone affects 1 in 133 people in the US (www.celiac.org), and even more people gluten intolerance, so by keeping the product on shelves, they could make a lot of people sick. I hope that you can publish this to let people who can’t eat gluten know to stay away from this product.

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