Polaner All-Fruit Jam with Fiber:  Is it really Gluten and Sugar Free?

How many of us find a trusted brand and happily spend the extra money to get that brand of that product so we don’t have to decipher labels each and every time we go to the grocery store?  I think of these products as “clean” – there is nothing in them that makes me sick and I can consume them without concern. 

For years I have purchased and consumed Polaner All-Fruit Jam.  With all their delicious fruit varieties, it has been my one “comfort” in the midst of the myriad of sweet sucrose-containing foods I cannot eat.  I put it on my gluten-free waffles and pancakes and sometimes even heat it up to make a fruit syrup.

Last Sunday I noticed my stomach was “blown-up” and cramping – the tell-tale sign that I’ve consumed gluten.  My husband had made brownies the night before, so I went through my kitchen, checking which utensils he had used, and asking him if he had possibly contaminated something I wasn’t aware of.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I endured more stomach cramping, headaches, fatigue, and mental confusion.  Friday, I woke up and thought I was better.  I decided I must have inadvertently eaten gluten from an outside source, and that I had recovered.  Then, I ate breakfast, and within the hour, the symptoms had returned.  All day long I worried about what my new intolerance was, how I was to find it, and how much more refined one person could make their diet.

Friday night, while making my daughter a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I got out the Strawberry Polaner All- Fruit and noticed for the first time that the words “with Fiber” had been added to the label.  I immediately checked the ingredients and was astounded to see “maltodextrin” as an ingredient.  Just to the right of the ingredients, however, I saw the words “gluten-free.”  And therein lies the problem:  sometimes maltodextrin makes me sick, sometimes it doesn’t.  According to the celiac.com website, it depends on the source, and obviously Polaner’s source or manufacturing practices aren’t clean enough for me.  Maybe they don’t test their maltodextrin every time, maybe the maltodextrin comes from “shared equipment”, but whatever the reason, this product now makes me sick and I am thoroughly disappointed.

It is frustrating that a company has to take a pure product such as an all-fruit jam and add something unnatural in order to tout some health benefit.  I know it’s marketing hype, but, for goodness sake, we’re talking about jam—let people get their fiber naturally and on their own terms. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am relieved to have found the culprit, but once again reminded how very careful those of us with celiac disease/gluten intolerance have to live our lives.  Snatching a favorite product off the shelves without checking labels each and every time just isn’t an option, especially when it takes someone like me up to a week to find that culprit!

I contacted the company with the following statement:

“Why ruin a wonderfully pure product – Polaner All-Fruit - by adding maltodextrin to it?  I have been sick all week and finally realized the Polaner All- Fruit with Fiber new formulation is the culprit.  Maltodextrin, even when proclaimed "gluten-free," can cause problems for those with celiac disease/gluten intolerance.   I am so disappointed - yours was the jam I trusted and now I can no longer have it.  Let people get their fiber naturally on their own terms!  In my opinion, you have taken an outstanding "clean" product and ruined it.”

Within two days I received this cordial and informative response:

Dear Ms. Arrington,

 

Thank you for your correspondence regarding our Polaner All Fruit brand. So sorry to learn that you were not feeling well after eating our newly reformulated All Fruit.

In speaking with Polaner All Fruit users in 2008 and 2009, many told us they are not getting enough fiber in their diets.   The response among these current All Fruit users to the concept of taking Polaner All Fruit and adding natural dietary fiber to the recipe was positive.  The majority told us that if the taste and texture could remain the same, they’d prefer a new version that provides a good source of fiber in every spoonful.  We often heard – “you can’t get enough fiber.”

The maltodextrin we use in Polaner All Fruit with Fiber is a soluble fiber produced under the brand name Fibersol-2.  Derived from nature, it is a concentrated form of soluble dietary fiber and remains undigested by enzymes of the human digestive system.

Fibersol-2 is produced from cornstarch, a completely natural product, using a method that results in a digestion-resistant maltodextrin. This non-digestible portion of the maltodextrin is tasteless and odorless.  It is extracted and then added to Polaner All Fruit to provide the fiber benefit.

Fibersol-2 contains a very small portion of sugar (<0.5 g total sugar per serving) making it perfect for sugar modified foods including true sugar free foods.  Based on FDA regulation, any product using this type of maltodextrin is considered sugar free.

We regret that you did not share the positive response to our reformulated All Fruit we’ve seen from others.

We appreciate your comments. They will be shared with management.

I wish you well.

After reading this I began to wonder if my problem was more with the <0.5g sugar content then possible gluten contamination.  If their maltodextrin is derived from cornstarch and is not produced on “shared equipment,” then it should be gluten free.  (I could buy a home ELISA kit and test it myself!)   I did appreciate their prompt and detailed response, but the knowledge that companies can label a product sugar free even when there are tiny amounts of sugar frustrated me even further. 

Regardless of the cause, now that the product contains maltodextrin, I can no longer consume it.  I went to the store and scrounged around until I found one lonely prior-to-fiber jar on the shelf.  It was a jar of Polaner Grape and maybe I can make it last long enough until they revert back to their old pure product or at least offer it as an option.

If this new product is also causing you problems, I suggest you go to http://www.polanerallfruit.com/polaner/index.html and let them know. For now, I am in the market for a new, pure, all-fruit jam!

As always, Celiac.com welcomes your comments (see below).