Jelly Belly: Made on shared lines – no indication on packaging!

Multicolored jelly beans in a white dish.

Yesterday while at work, I went looking for something extra to eat with my lunch. I discovered several Jelly Belly products were listed “gluten free”. In looking over the ingredients, I couldn’t find anything that looked dangerous, so I bought a few items:

  • Sunkist Fruit Gems: A Fat Free, Gluten Free Food
  • JB Fruit Snacks (Made with 7 Real Fruit Juices): Naturally Gluten Free
  • (NEW!) Jelly Bean Chocolate Dips (Very Cherry): A Gluten Free Food

The Sunkist package is the only one that carried an additional allergen warning. “Manufactured in a plant that processes peanuts.” Given that, I figured they were safe. Clearly, they were labeling for other allergens.

Well, they’re not.

This morning I woke up feeling very lethargic/groggy and my stomach hurt (both of these went on for hours. The stomach pains have eased off –  for now – but the extreme lethargy continues, even after coffee).

Last night, before these “fun” feelings hit, I pursued their website to find out if anything else was gluten free. The only statement on their site refers to the JB beans (no other JB candy):

All flavors of Jelly Belly beans are free of gluten. We do not use any wheat, rye, barley, or oats in the basic recipe for Jelly Belly jelly beans. The modified food starch listed on the package is cornstarch.

So, I dropped them an e-mail to find out if other things (namely the Chocolate Mints and Mint Cremes) were safe, but then added in: Do any of your products have gluten?


Reply 1:

Almost all items we manufacture are Gluten free. The only items that contain gluten are the items that contain real licorice pieces or our malt balls. Please see the attached document for the items we make the contain gluten.

Thank you for writing.

Sweet Regards,
Erin
Consumer Affairs Representative


My response:

Erin,

Thank you very much for your reply and for the attachment. One more question? Are the gluten-containing items made on their own lines, or is it shared equipment?

Thank you.


Reply 2:

Yes, the candy is produced on the same line as our other products at one point or another in the process. While we do clean and chemically wash all machinery between products, we cannot 100% guarantee that cross contamination would not not occur, although it is unlikely. We make over 100 different types of confections and only those listed contain gluten.

Hope this helps.

Have a nice day.

Sweet Regards,
Erin
Consumer Affairs Representative


My  response:

Erin,

Thank you for your reply. I just threw away the Jelly Belly products I bought yesterday, and definitely won’t be buying it again. Now I know why my stomach hurt so much this morning and why I’ve been feeling so lethargic.  Labeling products gluten free but NOT telling consumers (unless they ask) that you used SHARED lines is a dangerous move on JB’s part.

I’ll also be sharing this on my gluten free blog. Even if you clean the lines, it is just too risky for those of us who are very, very sensitive (which is a LOT of people with Celiac Disease).

Considering how many things you make, and how many places JB products are sold, would JB ever consider opening up new, dedicated gluten free facilities and getting certified by GFCO? (http://www.gfco.org/) (It would HAVE to be new facilities — washing the old ones and moving the small batch of gluten-containing products somewhere else would NOT cut it.)

Sincerely.


Reply 3: 

In late January/early February 2011, I received another response, but did not post an update because I felt that it contradicted what I was first told.

Short version of their initial response: Yes, all the candy, including the ones you specifically mentioned, is made on shared lines. Short version of their belated follow-up: No, wait, the ones you bought are not made on shared lines!

Today I received an email suggesting I post another blog entry since they sent an email to clarify about the gluten issue. Since I didn’t feel it clarified anything, and because there is still the issue that I got a gluten reaction to eating their products.

They did say they would forward on the suggestion (to someone) that they get certified by GFCO.

I let them know why I had not posted a blog entry in response to their last email and will see what I get back.

Update: As of 5 October 2020, JellyBelly has never followed up with me. I have never purchased any JB products again.

Checking their website today, they are still not certified, and this is the information I find searching for gluten free info (I got 3 different hits back, all worded slightly different):

All flavors of Jelly Belly beans are free of gluten. We do not use any wheat, rye, barley, or oats in the basic recipe for Jelly Belly jelly beans. The modified food starch listed on the package is cornstarch.

NOTE:  On occasion, other companies repackage our products in their own production facilities. If our product is packaged and distributed by another company, it will be noted on the package. Please check with the repackaging company regarding possible allergen exposure.  In addition, licensed goods that bear our name, but are produced by other companies, may contain peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg products and/or other allergens.

We take allergen issues seriously and want to provide you the information you need to make informed decisions. We make over 150 different candies and we urge you to always check the Ingredient labels on packages and bulk bins. Here is information on common allergens:

PEANUTS: No peanuts or peanut ingredients are in products manufactured in our plants, and our manufacturing facilities are peanut free. However, there are a limited number of confections that we offer that are packed in our facility but are produced by other companies, and some of the facilities they use also process peanuts. Therefore, please look for the term “Peanut Free” on packages and bulk bin labels to ensure that the product is peanut free. (Please note that tour centers/company retail stores may have other peanut products for purchase and these will be clearly labeled.)

TREE NUTS: We process almonds and coconut in our manufacturing facilities. Please note that tour centers/company retail stores may also carry other tree nut products.

GLUTEN: Jelly Belly jelly beans are gluten free. Most of the Confections by Jelly Belly, such as Gummi Bears and Candy Corn, are also gluten free. (Please note Chocolate Malt Balls and Licorice Pastels contain gluten)

DAIRY: Jelly Belly beans do not contain any dairy products. We make other confections such as chocolate covered candies that do contain dairy and packages are marked OUD. For specific products and to check ingredients search these FAQs by topic.

My take on this is that being truly careful was too difficult for this huge company. Frankly, I would avoid them altogether if you’re Celiac, or have any food allergies.   Sure looks like shared lines are still an issue too! – 5 October 2020


Here are the Jelly Belly products which specifically contain gluten (as of early 2011):

Item#               Item Description                                             Gluten Source

6030                Chocolate Malt Balls                                      Wheat and Barley

6032                Christmas Chocolate Malt Balls                  Wheat and Barley

1415                Christmas Deluxe Mix                                    Wheat and Barley

64909              Classic Candies Gift Box                               Wheat

64913              Classic Licorice Box                                       Wheat

1715                Deluxe Easter Mix                                          Wheat and Barley

1295                Deluxe Halloween Mix                                  Barley

88857              Hodgepodge                                                   Wheat and Barley

1075                Licorice Bridge Mix                                        Wheat

3015                Licorice Pastels                                               Wheat

4750                Speckled Chocolate Malted Eggs                Wheat and Barley

 

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