Update: Athena will be removing the words gluten free from their packaging.
Who would have thought a bar labeled gluten free would contain wheat sprout?
I often check out the gluten free options available at gas stations and rest areas when I travel. I have found some amazing products that way. While at a Sheetz in West Virginia I came across Athena Yogurt Bars.
I spotted the words gluten free on the front of the wrapper and thought about buying one. I would have walked out with a bar in hand and quickly devoured it based on the gluten free claim on the wrapper. Thankfully my corn intolerance saved me from this fate. I read every ingredient on every wrapper to check for corn as it is not a top eight allergen and is not disclosed.
When I turned over the Athena bar many ingredients alarmed me. (I am listing these in the order they show on the wrapper not in order of level of alarm or severity. If I listed them due to highest concern I would have started with the wheat sprouts.) I first saw grain dextrins and wondered what grain they were derived from. Then I saw barley grass and wheat grass which I know the fda approves for gluten free foods as long as the items test less than 20 ppm gluten or less. I will not eat anything with barley or wheat grass as it has a high rate of cross contamination. The grass itself is gluten free if it has not been allowed to sprout or begin producing grains, but who is to say that some of the blades of wheat grass don’t sprout sooner than others? It is just too much of a grey area for me to trust.
The third ingredient I saw was the one that made my jaw drop: WHEAT SPROUT! I immediately dropped the bar and had to retrieve it from the floor. I then took a photo of the ingredients and emailed Bella makers of Athena Bars. I knew that sprouting grains can begin the process of breaking down gluten proteins to make them easier to digest in general. In no way does sprouting wheat make it anywhere even close to gluten free. I did a bunch of research before writing this post and all of it pointed out that sprouted gluten grains are not gluten free. They are not even low gluten (I hate that trendy fad diet term). So I asked in my email to bella why their Athena Yogurt Bars are labelled as gluten free but show wheat clearly on the label. I have not gotten a response and I emailed them over a day ago. I also left a comment on the Bella facebook page asking the same question today and have yet to get a response. I am slightly impatient and wanted to get this information out to you all as soon as possible in hopes to save someone from a possible glutening. I will update this post as soon as I hear any word from the manufacturers. Until then I would cautiously advise you to steer clear of Athena Yogurt Bars. I could be wrong. There could be new research that escapes me and wheat sprouts could magically be gluten free now, but in case I’m not it wouldn’t hurt to eat something else until I get a clear response.