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Is HoneyBaked Ham gluten free?

HoneyBaked Ham’s website states that their products are gluten free. So why did my gluten-intolerant son feel sick after eating it?

I’m trying to get to the bottom of whether or not HoneyBaked Hams and Turkey really are gluten free. My son had a gluten reaction after eating both the ham and the turkey on Christmas. The labels don’t list anything with gluten, and just to be safe, he even avoided eating the edges with glaze. But the next day and for several days afterwards, he felt low-grade ick and fatigue. (I cooked everything else he ate that day, so I’m sure nothing else had gluten.)

The HoneyBaked Ham FAQ page clearly states that their products are gluten free (apparently the "modified food starch" is corn), and the people at the corporate office were very helpful and compassionate while answering my questions. One representative even stated that she has a friend with celiac disease who “never had a reaction” to HoneyBaked Ham … even when they were using a glaze that did contain gluten (which they discontinued in 2007)! So they’re as puzzled as I am.

Although the ingredient labels on HoneyBaked Ham and Turkey do not list anything immediately suspicious, such as barley syrup, they do list a number of science-y sounding ingredients I don’t recognize … and of course nitrites and other preservatives which I’d rather avoid.

Other blogs show comments of people who ate HBH products and experienced a gluten reaction; and the HoneyBaked rep told me that “once or twice a year” they get calls from people who say they’ve had a reaction, so it’s not unheard of.

From my sleuthing and their answers, I can’t find any evidence of gluten in HoneyBaked products … so for now I can’t trace my son’s gluten reaction to them. But I can say we won’t risk eating HBH products again until, as I urged on the phone, they obtain a certified gluten-free label from a third-party organization, which would go a long way toward instilling consumer confidence.

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

on Jan 17, 2012

An update: Yesterday HBH's quality assurance manager sent me a letter "to confirm that all glaze as well as our hame and turkey are gluten free. In fact, we require our vendor to test the glaze topping and it must test negative for gluten before it can be shipped to us."
I have to say I've been impressed with HBH's diligence in working with me to figure this out. For now, I remain puzzled as to what caused my son's gluten reaction.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2012

My son is gluten intolerant, as is my friend's mom. They both ate from the same boneless Honey Baked Ham last Christmas, and both suffered intestinal problems usually experienced after consuming gluten. We had purchased the HBH, since it was said to be gluten free. All other food was prepared to be scrupulously gluten free, so we believe it had to be the ham that caused the problem. It just seemed very suspicious that both my son and my friend's mom, who were the only gluten intolerant diners both became sickened. I don't think we can take another chance on a HBH unless we see more documentation about testing for gluten. I have checked the ingredients in the glaze and would be interested to know the origin of the maltodextrin...corn or wheat? Also, the origin of the food starch.

mechagrue (not verified)
on Aug 4, 2012

Did you buy a whole ham, or slices by the pound? When I worked at an HBH store back in the 1990s, our store had a deli counter that also sold sandwiches.

Obviously we weren't supposed to use the same knives for taking meat off the bone that we used with the bread. But you never know what can happen in the heat of the moment, so to speak.

I'm sure that the hams and the ingredients are all gluten free. But depending on the specific store's set-up, there is still room for cross-contamination. At the store I worked at, the hams were delivered mostly-cooked. We then put them in a big walk-in smoker to finish smoking. After they were smoked, they would be spiral sliced and glazed by hand.

I can't think of any obvious way that a whole ham could be contaminated. The equipment they use in the back room for slicing and glazing the hams is entirely separate from the deli area (or at least it was at our store). But you never know, maybe you had the misfortune to buy a ham that was spiral cut right after someone decided to stick a loaf of bread on the spiral slicer for a laugh.

Kandy (not verified)
on Nov 18, 2012

I'm glad you were able to confirm HoneyBaked Ham turkey and ham products are gluten free, and their customer service was very good!

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Miss_Muffet (not verified)
on Dec 16, 2012

Purchased their gf hams several times and had a reaction each time after eating them. I have celiac disease and multiple food allergies. My mom and husband are also celiacs and had reactions too. The first time we didn't consider that it was the ham and purchased it again a few months later. We froze a portion and ate some immediately. The same upset stomach/bowel response from all three of us. My husband ventured to try it a third time (brave guy) and absolutely had problems. I don't know if it's gluten or what the problem is with their products, but I wont be purchasing them again ever.

on Dec 2, 2014

After several minutes on the phone with the corporate offices in Georgia that serves our part of the U.S., they were very helpful, conscientious and considerate. They said that the hams in the stores are baked, glazed and "processed" in the same areas as other items that do have gluten (i.e.,-baked goods). If we wanted a completely GF Ham ordering it from the catalog would be closer to gluten free since those hams come from factories that only process the hams, and therefore do not come in contact with any other items. These factories are USDA certified and inspected and therefore can only process the hams/turkeys that are gluten free. Because my daughter cannot have any gluten, we are unfortunately going to see other sources for our holiday hams, we just cannot take this health risk. Hopefully this helps another person looking into this challenging topic of finding gluten free information,

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