Stouffer’s “Gluten Free” Macaroni & Cheese

I recently learned that Stouffer’s had come out with a “gluten free” mac & cheese, and it was much cheaper than other GF mac & cheese options.

But was it really gluten free? To the best of my knowledge, the rest of their line is not gluten free, so was this lone product produced in a small but dedicated facility? Or was it running on the same lines as everything else?

This is what I wrote in:

Is your gluten-free macaroni made on the same lines as your gluten-full products?

If yes, how do you fully prevent cross contamination?

If no, is it in the same facilities as products that have loose flour going into their production? If yes to this, how do you prevent CC when flour can stay in the air 24-48 hours before settling on everything?

Thank you!

This is the reply I received:

Thanks for your interest in Stouffer’s® Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese. All products labeled with a gluten free claim are compliant with 21 CFR 101.91, Gluten free Labeling of Food and  Nestlé requirements. Nestlé’s gluten free review included assessment of raw materials, production facility, and final formula. Based on the assessment, preventive controls are in place to be sure that the product meets Nestlé and US regulatory requirements. Products that meet those requirements may be labeled “gluten free”.

We’ve included some printable savings coupons to help you give this dish a try. When you’re ready to print, click the links below.

[links redacted]

Should you ever need help again, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Usually when I receive a CYA (yes, that’s cover your ass) response from a company, I simply reply, “Thank you for letting me know that this product is not Celiac safe. I will be sure to let people know.” And let it go.

But I’ve been getting more CYA answers than normal, and I’ve had enough. I’m sick of big companies, with plenty of money, doing the bare minimum to add GF products to their lines, that aren’t safe for anyone except people who go GF thinking it will help them lose weight or something along those lines, but otherwise have no medically necessary reasons for doing so. If they get cross contaminated from a pseudo-gluten-free product, they’ll never know.

So I sent this back, truly not expecting any kind of response, though I did get one.

Since I have no idea what 21 CFR 101.91 INVOLVES, this is basically a CYA on your part without actually telling me anything. You realize that, right?

Please include the exact wording of this supposed policy.

Also, this is a VERY evasive answer and what I got out of it is that you are MANUFACTURING ON SHARED LINES and don’t have the balls to come right out and say it. Why on earth would I, a Celiac, want coupons for foods that are clearly not Celiac-safe?

Transparency is a necessity when dealing with the Celiac community. We’re not in this for shits & giggles. A crumb of gluten will make me sick for weeks and itchy for months. It will literally give me the shits — but no giggles. And the more we are glutened, the sicker we get and the higher chance we have of developing colon cancer. You are not transparent. You are not producing this with Celiacs in mind; you are producing it with the intent for profit and profit alone. I’ll be sure to let Celiacs know to stay away from Stouffer’s with a 10000-ft pole.

Their reply:

We’re sorry we didn’t explain our answer clearly enough to alleviate your concerns about gluten! To clarify, our Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese is gluten free. 

Our meals are made on shared lines with gluten containing products, however, we have preventive controls, including thorough cleaning of the lines and equipment between products, as per the FDA..  

21 CFR 101.91 means that that when a meal is labeled as gluten free, it does not contain any of the following:

An ingredient that is a gluten-containing grain (e.g., spelt wheat)
An ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour)
An ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat starch), if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food (i.e., 20 mg or more gluten per kg of food)

It can also mean that an ingredient inherently does not contain gluten, and that any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food bearing the gluten free claim is below 20 ppm gluten.

My reply:

Shared lines are inherently not safe.

I didn’t bother to explain about how little gluten it will take to cause a CC issue, and how small that piece can be and still cause issues. I’m all for educating companies, but they clearly don’t want to be educated.

There’s been no follow-up; I don’t expect one at this point.

Upshot: Don’t eat Stouffer’s. And if you do and get glutened, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’ve also become severely unimpressed with Nestlé; they used to be more careful/concerned. Each product I write in about shows me more and more that profit > people/people’s health in their eyes. Nestlé, if you’re reading this, I challenge you to prove me wrong — and to do it the right way, for once.

And remember, less than 20ppm can still be as high as 19ppm. That’s not good for any Celiac.

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3 years ago

Unfortunately, the 20 ppm is the current max standard for “gluten free” anywhere. I understand your concern, because I’m the same way. For the most part, I haven’t had problems with this, but it’s always a risk. They’re not the only companies doing this. All we can do to verify is what you did. We have to research & judge for ourselves. Take the risk (which the majority I’ve had is safe), or Only get items produced in a dedicated gf facility. It’s a shame that it costs us a ton more to be safe. I make what I can, but not always up to it. It’s a personal choice until it changes. Making progress, but still a ways to go. To your/our health.

3 years ago

I work for Nestle (Stouffer’s) and have a Celiac daughter. I can tell you that the work done to ensure the product is gluten free is extensive. Shared lines does not automatically mean there is gluten contamination.