Navigating store-bought gluten-free baked goods can be like walking through a minefield. On the one hand, the cracker or cookie or pastry is wheat-free. SCORE. On the other hand, it’s almost always full of genetically-modified sugar and isolated starches that aren’t part of a traditional diet. FAIL.
Recently a reader emailed me asking me to decode the label on her Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastries Strawberry Flavor.
This is what I found.
Here’s what the manufacturer claims:
“The strawberry is nature’s way of giving you a kiss, a little peck to perk your spirits, to start your day off with a wink and a smile. This is your day, go and get it. Gluten-free. Kosher. Dairy-free.”
Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastries Strawberry: Ingredients
- STRAWBERRY FILLING:
- *APPLE POWDER (APPLES, CALCIUM STEARATE),
- *WHITE GRAPE JUICE CONCENTRATE,
- *MODIFIED TAPIOCA STARCH,
- *CITRIC ACID,
- *MALIC ACID,
- *NATURAL FLAVOR,
- *TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE,
- *BLACK CARROT JUICE (FOR COLOR),
- *SODIUM CITRATE,
- WHITE RICE FLOUR,
- PALM OIL,
- MODIFIED POTATO STARCH,
- RESISTANT CORN STARCH,
- MODIFIED TAPIOCA STARCH,
- TAPIOCA SYRUP,
- SUGAR BEET FIBER,
- BAKING POWDER:
- *SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE,
- *SODIUM BICARBONATE,
- *CORN STARCH,
- *MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE,
- XANTHAN GUM,
- MODIFIED CELLULOSE,
- NATURAL FLAVOR
Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastries Strawberry: DECODED
WHOA NELLY. The lazy part of me looks at that super long ingredient lists and says, “DUH. Just don’t eat the stuff.”
But that wouldn’t be fair to you, so here we go!
The first ingredient is Strawberry Filling, and the first ingredient in the filling is Sugar. Because this does not specify “cane sugar” or “evaporated cane juice,” we are safe in betting that the sugar is from GMO sugar beets. That’s because there are no GMO sugar cane crops, but 95% of all sugar beet crops in the U.S. are genetically-modified.
Next up within the filling is Apple Powder, which is made of apples and calcium stearate. Calcium stearate is a surfactant used in soaps and hair sprays. As a food additive, it’s purpose is to act as a flow agent to keep the apple powder from caking.
Glycerin is used both as a sweetener and a filler.
Next up is Strawberries. I am glad to see these here. I was starting to think there wouldn’t be any strawberries in this strawberry filling. The only downside to strawberries is that they aren’t organic. While I often buy non-organic produce or ingredients, I don’t ever buy non-organic strawberries. That’s because strawberries are one of the most pesticide-laden fruits on the planet, consistently scoring in the top three in the Environmental Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen list (which tests for pesticide residues on produce).
White Grape Juice Concentrate is an additional sweetener, and probably also a source of natural pectin (which helps the filling thicken). This is also the purpose of the Modified Tapioca Starch and added Pectin.
Both Citric Acid and Malic Acid are natural flavor enhancers, and the citric acid has the added benefit of acting as a preservative.
Next up in the strawberry filling is the ever ambiguous Natural Flavor. While this may not be nefarious, it often hides unseemly yet “natural” flavorings (like vanilla flavor derived from glands on a beaver’s anus). Without contacting the manufacturer, there is no way to know if the natural flavors added are wholesome or not.
Tricalcium Phosphate is a calcium salt, and I honestly have no idea why it’s added to the filling. It’s usually used as an anti-caking agent in powders or a raising-agent in baked goods. But I can’t imagine why a strawberry filling would need either of those.
Finally, Black Carrot Juice is added to the strawberry filling for color, and Sodium Citrate is added as an acidity regulator.
And now I pause to take a deep breath.
That was just the strawberry filling. We soldier on.
For the ingredients in the pastry dough, we start with Water (self-explanatory) and White Rice Flour (also self-explanatory). Some may have a small concern over the arsenic levels in rice, but I don’t share that concern so long as the rice is eaten in moderation.
Palm Oil is an ancient oil that’s good for you, but unfortunately it’s usually not sourced well. Without contacting the manufacturer, we have no way of knowing if this type of palm oil is destructive to rainforests and orangutan habitats. (The African varieties of palm oil don’t destroy orangutan habitat, and you’ve got the added bonus of them being super-high in antioxidants like vitamin A.)
Modified Potato Starch, Resistant Corn Starch, and Modified Tapioca Starches are all isolated starches used to give the white rice flour a better texture more ideal for pastry dough. Both potato and tapioca starch are traditional and can be collected in your own kitchen. But resistant corn starch is likely from GMO corn, and it can’t be casually made without a laboratory.
The Eggs, unfortunately, do not come from pasture-raised hens. Nor are they even organic. This means the eggs likely come from hens raised not only in confinement, but stacked on top of each other in cages so small they hardly have room to turn around. They are likely “battery hens,” and perpetuate a type of cruelty to chickens that I find offensive. They are also routinely fed anti-microbials and arsenic and have their beaks cut off to keep them from aggressively harming the chickens that share a cage with them.
Tapioca Syrup and Sugar are added as sweeteners. As before, the sugar is most likely from GMO sugar beets since it is not specifically labeled “cane sugar.”
Sugar Beet Fiber and Inulin are both added to increase the dietary fiber of the dough so that it’s texture is more like pastry flour.
Salt and Baking Powder are both self-explanatory. Unfortunately, the baking powder is almost certainly from genetically-modified sources.
Xanthum Gum is used to give the dough a more sticky consistency so that it’s easier to work with. It is almost always derived from GMO corn, GMO soy, or wheat. If you have any allergies to these or wish to avoid them because they are GMO, then beware. Unless a food is certified GMO-free, or the ingredient label specifies GMO-free Xanthum Gum, you can bet it came from one of these undesirable sources.
While in itself xanthum gum is probably not nutritionally harmful or bad, its presence is certainly a sign that you’re buying an industrially processed food. Think of it like a warning flag that should make you aware of the other ingredients in the food. If you see it on a label and find no other questionable ingredients, then all is well. If you see it on a label and see a plethora of other questionable ingredients, then know that the food is highly processed.
Modified Cellulose adds bulk to the flour without adding calories. It is most often derived from GMO corn or wood pulp.
And lastly, we once again have the ambiguous Natural Flavor.
Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastries Strawberry: THE VERDICT
This is a no brainer!
What should I eat instead?
Your best bet is homemade. I have made and enjoyed these Gluten-Free Pop Tarts from Gluten-Free on a Shoe String.
If you don’t need to avoid gluten, then the best compromise I’ve found are these Organic, GMO-Free, Toaster Pastries. They are still an obviously processed food, but at least it’s made with organic and GMO-free ingredients.
Want Your Labels Decoded?
In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!
Sharon McCameron Whyte says
What about xanthan gum? What is right/wrong with this substance. It is food grade, but as far as I can tell…has no nutritional value. Is it just used as a thickener? What about salad dressing that use this in lieu of oils?
As I wrote in the post:
“Xanthum Gum is used to give the dough a more sticky consistency so that it’s easier to work with. It is almost always derived from GMO corn, GMO soy, or wheat. If you have any allergies to these or wish to avoid them because they are GMO, then beware. Unless a food is certified GMO-free, or the ingredient label specifies GMO-free Xanthum Gum, you can bet it came from one of these undesirable sources.
While in itself xanthum gum is probably not nutritionally harmful or bad, its presence is certainly a sign that you’re buying an industrially processed food. Think of it like a warning flag that should make you aware of the other ingredients in the food. If you see it on a label and find no other questionable ingredients, then all is well. If you see it on a label and see a plethora of other questionable ingredients, then know that the food is highly processed.”
OK, now I feel guilty that I got these (in apple flavor) for my celiac son who at age 16 has never had a PopTart . . . thanks for including the recipe for the Gluten Free Pop Tarts, will definitely give those a try. We don’t buy a lot of packaged, processed gf baked goods, but once in a while a treat is in order!
We all do the best we can with what we’ve got.
What type of flour did you use when making the gluten free pastries?
I didn’t even think about the gluten free pretzels from this same brand being made with GMO starches. I give them to my son all the time, he LOVES them! Any gluten free pretzels out there that aren’t made with GMOs?
The website (in the FAQ section) says they are in the process of getting all their products Non-GMO certified. They give a list of those that are already certified. Here is the link:
Pretzels and these pastries aren’t on that list yet, I know neither one is health optimal, but GMOs are a deal-breaker for me, he’s a teenager and eats non-stop so sometimes I just need something quick to grab that I don’t have to prepare, he does love those pretzels but I will stop buying until I know they are GMO free! Dr. Mercola just sent out a post about GMOs have glyphosates in them, toxic insecticide, it is so nuts that we are eating this stuff without even knowing. Thanks!
This is disgusting! So… it is like as if they care for our health… they just saw there a way to make money, a lot of money on people misery — as usual — and count on the fact we might believe it.
I am really discouraged when I see products like Yves and others big names using canola oil galore… shivers! Don’t you think they should know that this oil is absolutely no good for human consumption?
I have a lot of food allergies and consider it as a blessing as I have to eat fresh and at home. When I see things like you just described, I just pat my little body on the back and say thank you for being so allergic to soooo many things so I avoid eating these craps.
You have solved a mystery for me! Every time I eat anything from Glutino it makes my stomach hurt. I am allergic to beet sugar! I always read the labels of other food products looking for the dreaded gluten (and cotton seed oil) but my brain switched off when it came to GF food items.
Switching it back on!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE INFO!!! Love that you share your knowledge and recipes.
Nicole Hunn says
Holy moly that is a crazy long list of ingredients, Kristen! And I bet that box of toaster pastries cost a pretty penny, too. I’m so glad you like my recipe for gluten-free “Pop Tarts.” Thanks for the shout-out. I love how you tell it like it is on your site! That doesn’t happen too often on the Internet these days.
Thanks for the wonderful “thorough” evaluation. Even the so-called healthy products out there are still “processed”…..just stay away as much as possible.
How about you just look at the picture and go NAW
I jumped to buy Glutino GF crackers but didn’t read the label, assuming they were safe because it was labelled gluten-free. They tasted waaaay too good, so I looked at the label and was shocked to see sugar on the ingredient list?!? Glutino brand has a wide variety of gluten-free products, but I don’t buy any of them because of all the reasons you’ve listed. Thanks for confirming! Any gluten-free alternate suggestions?
Glutino toaster pastry!
Don’t go there.
I purchased January /2014 had pull date august 2014 .
3 packages boxes of these
( 2 )cinnamon
Pastries were all sealed in packets.
The picture on the box shows puffy looking pastry filled with red strawberry jelly and puffy pastry filled with apple cinnamon.
No that is NOT what was in these boxes.
They were dry, some broken and where was the jelly that was pictured and printed on the box it was not in these so called pastries.
The dry sides were stuck to each other what was between them was a smear of tan/brown yuck that was also dried up looked like smear of dried varnish .
All 3 boxes were same condition center looked like _ _ _ _
GLUTINO that word rings in my mind and I never ever want to see that garbage in my home again.
mary light says
for Green Pastures Blue Ice cinnamon Tingle:
there is nothing at all on the label of the cod liver oil of this brand (65$ a small bottle) indicating any “nutrient” except fat.
nada about Vit d and A. yet Norweigian -Carlsons- does list amounts. (does that mean they ADD A and D to the oil??)
I feel kind of ignorant paying so much for this,
having no assurance whatsoever besides “historically” there might be vitamin D and A in this, which is the only
reason I bought.
any comments? since you recommend it ? It just seems that all other foods, from eggs to sunflower seeds to oranges,
can at least give some kind of nutrient value, but not this 65$ little bottle of product.
ml payne says
I bought (for the first time)the Strawberry breakfast bars for my husband. He ate one and had a reaction. The only ingredient that I can see he has never had is chick pea flour. He not only is a celiac but has an illestomy. the reaction caused a two day hospital stay. Will not use your products again.
Helena Ellison via Facebook says
I spent 45 mins in the health food store just reading labels. i was surprise how many different products have yeast extract in their ingredient list.
Spatz Lawler via Facebook says
I actually gave them a shot… I took one bite and they were really quite terrible! I promptly returned them.
Joan Huffman via Facebook says
Gluten free junk is still junk
Jill Jenkins Biggs via Facebook says
These really taste like crap!
Mary Light via Facebook says
Good for posting this. There is quite a lot of junk out there now in this gluten free realm.