Is Vernors Gluten Free? : A Corn Gluten Study

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Recently, a concerned reader contacted me stating that Vernors contained gluten. My investigation further delved into the concept of corn gluten, and the safety of corn for those with Celiac Disease. Join me for quite a tale!

Dr Pepper Is Vernors Gluten Free Twitter

How This All Started

So, as stated, a reader expressed concern, after drinking Vernors. She stated she became ill after drinking it. She tested it with her NIMA, and it displayed “gluten found.” She called Dr. Pepper (who owns / produces Vernors) and they told her it contained gluten. So I did a quick online search, because I drink Vernors all the time. Nothing on the Vernors website about gluten, but I did find this on the Dr. Pepper website.

Does Dr Pepper Contain gluten

True, while Dr. Pepper is obviously not Vernors, the above statement on their FAQ page concerned me. (One of which is that we no longer call it “Celiac Sprue” and also because this organization no longer exists.) Their statement about corn gluten, , IMO, causes undue concern for those with Celiac Disease. So what is corn gluten?

How Does Wheat Gluten Differ from “Corn Gluten?”

Celiac Kids Connection What is gluten

The concept of gluten causes confusion. Some will even tell you gluten doesn’t exist without kneading. (Insert eye roll.) Technically, gluten is the combination of prolamins and glutelin. These are both found in the endosperm of the the grain. This “What is Gluten” diagram from Celiac Kids Connection explains it better than I ever could.

In wheat, the specific glutelin is “glutenin.” For those with Celiac Disease, it is specifically the glutenin and the prolamin gliadin that cause a reaction. (The proteins in barley and rye are also problematic.) Sometimes people call the protein in corn “gluten,” but it isn’t the same thing.  Just like “glutinous rice,” those with Celiac Disease can also consume corn.

What is Corn Gluten Canva Insta Image

“But I Read Somewhere Corn’s Not Safe”

So where does this idea some from? A website cites this study. Maize prolamins could induce a gluten like cellular immune response in some celiac disease patients.  However, the abstract states, “for some CD patients, as a rare event, peptides from maize prolamins could induce a celiac-like immune response.” Also, this study was done “in silico,” which means “computer simulation.” Not in people. Therefore, this study is more hypothetical than practical.

Can you have a corn intolerance or allergy? Absolutely, as explained in this post from Beyond Celiac. I am not dismissing the fact that corn may make you ill. I am simply addressing the false concept that all people with Celiac Disease can’t eat corn. We have enough anxiety, and I’d like to relieve some of yours, if I can.

Back to Vernors and Dr. Pepper

In light of all of this, I contacted Dr. Pepper. I asked if Vernors contained gluten, and if so, to name the source of the gluten in their soda. Specifically, I asked if it contained wheat, rye, barley or corn. This is the reply I received.

“Thank you for contacting us about Vernors. We’re always excited to hear from our consumers. Your comments give us valuable input about our brands and how they are enjoyed.

For a full list of our gluten free products please visit the following website: https://www.dpsgproductfacts.com/en/discover/GLUTEN_FREE.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact us, Margaret. We greatly appreciate your feedback!”

Dr Pepper Gluten Free Products

What Dr Pepper Products Are Gluten Free?

So what Dr. Pepper products are gluten free? Based on the link they gave me, not a single one of their sodas. No Vernors. Not even Dr. Pepper. Which is ironic, since the individual Dr. Pepper website states  IT IS gluten free. So I did some more digging. I found this Vernors Ginger Soda Customer Report on their site. It states which allergens are present / absent in Vernors.

Vernors Ginger Soda Allergens and Sensitivities Consumer Report Sheet

Note that, in this document available on their website, they list wheat and gluten both as “absent.” It specifically lists gluten “sourced from but not limited to wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, and buckwheat.” (P.S., buckwheat is a naturally gluten free food.) So based on this document, Vernors contains no wheat, rye, barley or oats.

Dr Pepper Products Containing Gluten Allergen link

What Dr. Pepper Products Do Contain Allergens?

The Dr Pepper website also has an “allergens” page. They list their products by which allergens they contain. Dr. Pepper even discloses which products contain grapefruit, sulfites and quinine on this website page. The only product listed containing gluten is their Horseradish Bloody Mary Mix. Not Vernors.

But What About the NIMA Result?

Nima Never Validated to test Carbonated Sodas Is Vernors gluten free

 

On the NIMA website, they disclose information about using their testing kit. This page highlights what it can and can’t test, and when to use caution in testing. At the bottom of this page, is states that NIMA is not validated to test carbonated beverages. So was the result in her test accurate? Maybe. Maybe not.

Is Vernors Gluten Free

Is Vernors Gluten Free?

In general, I hate the idea of “whatever works for you.” I like hard facts. However, in the end, you’ll have to decide this one for yourself. I find nothing in the ingredient list to concern me. If Dr Pepper only uses wheat in their Bloody Mary Mix, I doubt it will end up in Vernors. Any shared equipment would have to be cleaned thoroughly to prevent transfer of flavors. Not to mention the Bloody Mary Mix is not carbonated.

The big take away is this. We need companies to better understand what gluten is and what it is NOT. Sadly, this is not the first company to tell people that their product contains gluten due to the presence of corn. Dr. Plogsted shares in this article how some pharmaceuticals think corn constitutes gluten in their medications. Sigh.

Ask Your Own Questions

In the end, contact companies directly if you have a question about a product. Question sources, even if that source is me! I can be just as wrong as anybody else. Also, use regular apple cider in my gluten free apple dumplings. Taste MUCH better than Mt. Dew or any other soda or pop.

Note- I contacted Dr. Pepper again after their initial email requesting more information. I also provided the links to the images I shared here, asking for further clarification. When I again asked if the gluten in their products was from wheat, rye, barley or corn, this was their reply. 

“Unfortunately that information is proprietary. If you have any health concerns we advise abstaining from using the product. The products listed on our Gluten Free page are the products that do not contain any gluten.”

3 Comments

  1. I live in Michigan and I have Celiac disease and Vernors has always been my go to stomach medicine. I have never had a bad reaction to it. I don’t know what I would do without it. So, until someone tells me any different I will still keep drinking it.

  2. This is an amazing posting, Margaret! Thanks for making it — I know a lot about gluten, but I learned a lot from it!!

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