Sometimes that “not quite right” looking gluten-free food turns out to be gluten-free

Sometimes that “not quite right” looking gluten-free food turns out to be gluten-free

Sometimes that “not quite right” looking gluten-free food turns out to be gluten-free and sometimes it does not.

Latest incident. We recently tested two pretzel sticks that looked different from the rest of the pretzel sticks in a bag of gluten-free Snyders’s of Hanover pretzels. They were longer, thinner, and darker than the other pretzels (see photo). GFWD asked SH to test the errant pretzels but they declined.

SH will not test any product once packaging has been opened. This is due to chain of custody issues, the potential for accidental cross contact, and no control over the product once the bag is opened. While these concerns are understandable, without testing it is hard to know whether errant pieces of “different looking” product are a health issue.

At the time of the incident, Snyder’s of Hanover explained that the longer, thinner size was believed to be caused by a plugged up dye hole that leads to longer thinner sticks being extruded through adjacent holes. The darker color was due to the sticks being baked at the same temperature as the thicker pretzels.

GFWD tested the pretzels. Fortunately they turned out to be gluten-free. Was the consumer concern misplaced? Of course it wasn’t.

If something about a packaged gluten-free food doesn’t look right, report it. The recall of Van’s “gluten-free” waffles happened thanks to consumers speaking up—first to Van’s Foods and then to the FDA when the response from the manufacturer was less than stellar.

Packaging errors sometimes happen. At Gluten Free Watchdog we’ve been contacted about gluten-free pasta that included errant pieces that were a different shape and color. We’ve been contacted numerous times about errant grains in various bags of legumes. And we’ve been contacted on a few occasions about “gluten-free” pretzels that simply “did not look right”. On one occasion the pretzels sent to us by the consumer, tested at over 58,000 parts per million of gluten. On another occasion, the pretzels sent to us tested below 5 parts per million.

If something similar happens to you—you open a gluten-free product and it doesn’t look right–please consider taking the following steps:

  • Contact the manufacturer
  • If you are asked to return the remaining product, make sure the manufacturer puts in writing that they will test the sample for gluten, advise you of the results, and retain any remaining sample
  • Do not send the entire product back to the manufacturer
    • Put a small amount in a clearly marked unused zip-lock bag
  • Take photos of the product packaging and the product, including the lot number, best by date, and UPC code
  • Contact your local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator
  • If you have any difficulties, contact Gluten Free Watchdog for help at

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Comments (6)

  • Tom H Baker MD Reply


    I am a retired physician 86 years old.I could eat anything until about four years ago.I have become increasingly sensitive to gluten,confirmed by blood tests and biopsies.I am sensitive to traces of it now!
    I was never taught anything about this gluten problem.How long has it been around.It seems to be getting rapidly worse.
    Please send me a free article that summarizes gluten sensitivity.Thank you very much.

    September 18, 2018 at 1:33 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Tom. Thanks for reaching out. Hopefully you were tested for celiac disease. If you go to PubMed and search under celiac disease and gluten sensitivity a number of free articles will come up in the listing.

      September 18, 2018 at 5:34 pm
  • Tammy Reply

    This is not the same issue of course but I was at a Market recently and my friend eagerly took me to a gluten free bakery stall. The baker had both regular and gluten free products and their gluten free H-buns looked soft and squishy and lovely. In fact they looked so good I was scared to buy them; it actually disappointed my friend a little.

    September 18, 2018 at 1:37 pm
  • Suzanne Reply

    I just have the exact same pretzel in my bag. Looked up online and found this article. Will still report it.

    May 24, 2020 at 7:10 am
  • Kelsey Castaneda Reply

    I am celiac and just had a reaction to Snyder’s gluten free pretzles. It’s the only thing I have eaten all day. I had severe vomitting shortly after eating them and the symptoms are what I experience when accidentally consuming gluten.

    April 18, 2022 at 8:47 pm

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