Fairlife milk added oat fiber to its protein beverages, causing the gluten-free community to question whether the revised product now contains gluten. In this post, I share why the brand says its milk products may no longer be safe for the gluten-free community. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
A few weeks ago, a reader named Joy emailed me about Fairlife milk products. She had been drinking them for a while and recently noticed that they now contain oat fiber.
Joy wasn’t sure if she had missed this ingredient detail before or if the company had changed its formula. She asked me if I would test one of the products for hidden gluten with my Nima Sensor, a portable gluten-detecting device. (More on that later.)
The gluten-free community knows that oats, while naturally gluten-free, are notoriously cross-contaminated with wheat. Oats must be in a product labeled “gluten-free” for a person with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity to enjoy them safely.
To understand why oats are not always gluten-free, read Are Oats Gluten Free? Unpacking Confusing and Contradictory Information.
Joy sent me the chocolate-flavored Fairlife Nutrition Plan 30 g protein drink. The label lists oat fiber as an ingredient.
Confusingly, the company’s website doesn’t include oat fiber as an ingredient in the same product. The ingredient list on the website also shows cellulose gel, cellulose gum, and carrageenan, all of which no longer appear on the bottle itself.
Fairlife Says Its Milk May Not be “Totally” Gluten-Free
I emailed the company to inquire about the ingredient changes and determine if the product was gluten-free. l also wanted to know why the ingredient list on the website didn’t match the ingredient list on the bottle.
Fairlife told me that it’s slowly replacing carrageenan with oat fiber as a product stabilizer, and they have been “slowly” rolling out bottles with oat fiber vs. carrageenan since July 2022.
Here’s what the spokesperson for Fairlife said, “We are updating the recipe for Fairlife Nutrition Plan to include oat fiber in place of carrageenan as a product stabilizer. We will be introducing the new Nutrition Plan recipe in a slow rollout beginning with Costco in July 2022. The staggered rollout will allow us to help ensure product quality and product availability across retailers.”
It appears that to have a cleaner ingredient list, companies are ditching carrageenan and various gums and instead using oat fiber as a thickener and stabilizer. Oat fiber works particularly well as a stabilizer in foods with a creamy consistency, like milk and yogurt.
When I pressed Fairlife about whether the beverages containing oat fiber are gluten-free, the spokesperson said the following:
“Some minor ingredients in these products are manufactured from plants that gluten-sensitive people could react to, so we are unable to state categorically that they are totally gluten-free even though they may have undetectable levels of gluten in them. However, extremely gluten-sensitive individuals should discuss the consumption of these products with their healthcare provider.”
Editor’s Note: I hate when companies tell me to discuss the consumption of their products with my doctor. What a ridiculous response, Fairlife, and nonsensical use of my doctor’s time. A company should know – without a doubt – whether its products contain gluten. They shouldn’t leave it up to my doctor to decide whether their products are safe for me.
Testing Fairlife with Nima
I tested Fairlife milk for hidden gluten. The one I tested (pictured) contained oat fiber. As you can see, Nima smiled, which means it did not find any gluten.
However, please take these test results with a grain of salt, especially given that the company says it’s unable to “categorically” say this product is “totally gluten-free,” citing that it may contain “undetectable levels of gluten.”
The Bottom Line
In 2022, Fairlife milk changed its ingredient label to include oat fiber, and people in the gluten-free community may not have realized the subtle ingredient switcharoo.
While Nima Sensor didn’t find any gluten, and the company says its products don’t contain “detectable levels of gluten,” the company still advises people with gluten disorders NOT to consume its beverages.
And since Fairlife changed its ingredients on the sly, I’ve added them to my list of Formerly Gluten-Free Products that Now Contain Gluten. They’re part of a growing club of companies that have changed their ingredients to add gluten.
You might enjoy reading these related articles:
- Are Oats Gluten Free? Unpacking Confusing and Contradictory Information
- Is Oatmilk Gluten Free?
- What You Need to Know About Nima Sensor Before You Buy
- What Gluten-Free Labeling Laws and Certifications Really Mean
- Is the FDA’s 20 ppm Gluten Threshold Enough?
- Pizza Restaurants that Don’t Recommend their Gluten-Free Pizza for People with Celiac Disease
Good For You Gluten Free says
I’m not sure if the oat fiber change will affect other Fairlife products that contain carrageenan but be sure to check labels of each and every beverage bc they said they were rolling out the changes slowly.
Susan Fiorillo says
Have there been any changes to Fairlife Reduced Fat 2% still gluten free. I am new tot he celiac group’
Good For You Gluten Free says
It only applies to the protein dinks. I do not have information about the other products. Read labels carefully.
Amy Venetucci says
Does this new information about Fairlife only apply to their single-serve protein drinks, or do some of their full-sized regular milks also contain oat fiber?