Customers ask us this question all the time. So let's investigate and find out.
What exactly is gluten anyway? Simple question but I found a variety of answers. According to the Mayo Clinic and Celiac.org, gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, or triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a "glue" that holds food together.
Is popcorn gluten free? The answer is yes! Corn is a different type of grain which doesn't contain any gluten at all. However, cross contamination with a gluten product may happen in the farmer's field, in the manufacturing process, in bulk food purchases at the store, or in your own kitchen. Popped popcorn contains corn, oil, maybe butter or sugar, which are all gluten free. However, what about the spices used on popcorn? (This is the next question customers usually ask...)
Spices can be a little trickier when "hunting" for gluten. According to www.alergicliving.com individual herbs and spices do not usually contain gluten, though non-gluten anti-caking agents like calcium silicate, silicon dioxide, or sodium aluminum silica may be added. In rare cases, spice manufacturers have added wheat flour or wheat starch to cut costs. These poor manufacturing practices have been identified more frequently in third world countries (imported spices).
In the United States and Canada food regulations require any wheat based ingredient to be declared on the label. A recent study by the Canadian Inspection Agency (2013) found that of the 268 single spice samplings, 97% of these spices were well below the 20 ppm (parts per million) the Food and Drug Administration standard for gluten free labeling required in the United States, of the remaining 3% the spices were imported or quickly recalled. A private US firm recently determined that spices commonly used in the US to be gluten free.
So, Yes popcorn is considered a naturally gluten-free snack food! Popcorn is enjoyed by many, even those with Celiac disease. However, a person with gluten sensitivities knows their body best. So as the old saying goes, if in doubt go without.