Easter is a special time for many families to spend time together. Easter was traditionally a Christian festival celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The symbol of giving eggs at Easter was a way to celebrate new life. Modern Easter means different things to different people. For some, it is a religious occasion; for others it is a time spent with family and friends exchanging Easter Eggs.
During this custom of exchanging Easter Eggs, it can be easy for a celiac to accidently eat gluten if the ingredients are unknown. So, can someone with celiac disease eat Easter Eggs safely? How can you safely give Easter Eggs to a person with celiac disease?
The good news to both questions is yes. Easter Eggs can be consumed and given but it is important to understand what ingredients are in the chocolate eggs. As a general rule - most plain chocolate Easter Eggs are gluten free but as always the individual ingredients need to be examined. Some chocolate manufacturers like Lindt, add "malt extract" to their products; therefore the products are not gluten free.
Other companies will have product statements that "declare processed on same production lines as products containing gluten and there is a chance of cross contamination". Easter Eggs that have "extras added, like honeycomb, marshmallows, liquorice, cream fillings etc need to be checked individually to see if they contain gluten. This is not necessary if the product is marked "gluten free".
Many companies world wide, such as Hersheys, Cadbury, Nestles and Dove have a large selection of Easter Eggs suitable for a gluten free diet. It would be recommended to view a list of products on the companies web site. The Cadbury web site, for example, details all products that contain gluten, others that have trace amounts of gluten or products that are gluten free. The other method is to read the ingredient list of the product to establish if it is gluten free. Every product will list the ingredients and declare if it comes from a gluten source. It is important to check these ingredients everytime the product is purchased as companies can change the ingredients at any time.
For a more detailed information on food labeling and understanding ingredients go to Reading and Understanding labels - General, Reading and Understanding labels - USA, Reading and Understanding labels - Aust/NZ, and Reading and Understanding labels - UK.
Examples of ingredients in typical chocolate Easter Eggs:
The ingredients in plain chocolate Easter Eggs are: full cream milk, sugar, cocoa butter, milk solids, vegetable fat, emulsifiers (soya lecthin, 476) flavors. May contain traces of nuts. Milk chocolate contains solids 21%, mild solids 28%. In this example wheat or gluten are not declared in the ingredient list, therefore making this product gluten free.
Chocolate Easter Eggs containing honeycomb
Example 1: Nestle Chocolate with Violet Crumble - Ingredients – compounded chocolate (59%), [sugar, vegetable fat, milk solids, cocoa, emulsifiers 492, soya lecithin) salt flavor], Honeycomb (40%) [sugar, glucose syrup (derived from wheat or corn)], Raising agent (sodium bicarbonate) Gelatin, wheat flour. The above product contains wheat flour, therefore it is not gluten free. This product also contains glucose syrup (derived from wheat or corn), however it must be pointed out that glucose syrup (whether it is derived from wheat or corn) has no detectable gluten, due to is product being so highly processes. Glucose syrup is safe to consume on a gluten free diet.
Example 2: Cadbury Chocolate Easter Eggs with Crunchie - Ingredients – sugar, milk solids, wheat glucose syrup, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, vegetable fat, mineral salt (500), emulsifiers (soya lecthin, 476) hydrolyzed milk protein, flavors. The above product has no ingredients containing gluten, therefore it is gluten free.
It is not Easter unless you can eat a chocolate coated marshmallow 'bunny'!! Many chocolate products containing marshmallows are gluten free but some are not.
Once again, there is a need to be vigilant with understanding what ingredients are contained in the product by reading the ingredient list. Some marshmallows are made with starch. This starch can be from a wheat or corn source. Wheat starch needs to be avoided as this contains gluten. Corn starch is considered safe to eat on a gluten free diet. It is possible to enjoy these fluffy marshmallow treats.