Are you curious to know if Crystal Light is gluten free? In this article, I discuss the confusion round Crystal Light and show you how the beverage fared when put to the Nima Sensor test. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
This post had me scratching my head because I thought Crystal Light was labeled gluten free (it is). But could Crystal Light contain hidden gluten?
I decided to do a little more research – and an independent Nima Sensor test – to get to the bottom of this.
A Nima Sensor is a portable gluten-detecting device that enables you to test your food for hidden gluten. You simply put a small sample of food or beverage into the single use test capsule, and in about 2-3 minutes, the device will tell you if it finds any gluten, even levels below 20 parts per million (its accuracy is highly criticized, be forewarned).
Is Crystal Light Gluten Free?
For all intents and purposes, if a package of Crystal Light is labeled “gluten free”, it’s safe for those following a strict gluten-free diet to consume. Why?
(1) Kraft Discloses Sources of Gluten
First, it’s important to note that Crystal Light is manufactured by Kraft, and Kraft says it always discloses all sources of gluten on its packaging. The brand also requires its suppliers to disclose all sources of gluten. If a product manufactured by Kraft has gluten in it, the label would say so and the product most definitely would not be labeled gluten free.
(2) It’s Labeled Gluten Free
Second, Crystal Light is labeled gluten free. This means the company has verified that it contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, per the FDA’s gluten-free guidelines. Unless proven otherwise, I believe it’s safe to assume a product is gluten free when labeled gluten free, which some exceptions (again, until proven otherwise).
- Citric Acid: Citric acid is almost always gluten free as it’s made from corn, beet sugar or molasses. If by chance it’s derived from wheat, the gluten protein would no longer be present in the final product because the ingredient is so highly processed.
- Maltodextrin: While maltodextrin has the word “malt” in it, which would insinuate it contains malt (barley), it does not contain any malt at all. Most maltodextrin used in processed foods comes from corn. Again, if by chance wheat is used, it’s so highly processed that the gluten would have been removed.
- Natural and Artificial Flavors: No one knows what natural or artificial flavors are exactly, making them some of my least favorite ingredients to see on a food label. While natural and artificial flavors are generally okay for people on a gluten-free diet to consume, it’s always a concern that gluten could be lurking inside “flavors” as some natural flavors are derived from malt extract (barley).
In the case of Crystal Light, because it’s labeled gluten free, it’s highly unlikely gluten would be lurking in any of those questionable ingredients.
(3) I Independently Tested It
Third, I indepently tested Crystal Light for hidden gluten using my Nima Sensor. I wanted to see if I could replicate the gluten-positive Nima Sensor test posted by another Nima user online.
As you can see, my Nima Sensor came back with a smiley face, which means not gluten found. It displays a wheat symbol and “Gluten Found” message when it finds gluten.
A Few Thoughts Before You Drink Crystal Light
While I can’t say for sure why the person in my Facebook support group found gluten in Crystal Light, there are a few theories:
(1) The Crystal Light tested may not have been labeled gluten free. I’m not sure if all or just some Crystal Light containers are labeled gluten free. Read labels carefully. Buy only ones labeled “gluten free.”
(2) The Nima Sensor has a few well-known limitations that I believe could have caused an incorrect test.
- If the user tested it as a liquid (i.e., he or she made a quart of the beverage, then tested the beverage), he or she may have overflowed the test capsule, rendering the test invalid.
- If the user tested it as a powder, he or she must add a little bit of water to the test capsule as well.
- I have noticed that Nima sometimes struggles with brightly-colored powdery foods, such as cumin and Tajin (see my spice article). Both of these products should be gluten free, but many Nima users have received “gluten found” messages with these particular spices likely due to their bright color. It’s possible the user tested too much of the brightly-colored powder with not enough water, and it created a false negative, although I cannot say for sure.
Please note that I first prepared the Crystal Light packet as instructed, and then I tested the liquid in my Nima Sensor. I did it this way in an effort to avoid any issues associated with testing brightly-colored foods.
(3) It’s always possible that Crystal Light contains trace amounts of gluten, or that some Crystal Light varieties are not labeled gluten free. Remember, Nima is highly accurate and often detects gluten at levels below 20 ppm, giving the impression that a product may contain unsafe levels of gluten, when in reality it contains something like 15 ppm of gluten, which the FDA deems safe. (Please note that I’m not sure if my gut deems 15 ppm of gluten safe, but that rant is for another post, at another time.)
Can You Safely Drink Crystal Light?
Bottom line, if the packaging is labeled gluten free, you can safely consume the product on a gluten-free diet.
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