Sunday, August 21, 2011

When Gluten-Free Doesn't Really Mean Free from Gluten

A cautionary reminder that despite advances, the production of gluten-free products still needs to be improved. I was glad to see that the Upper Valley's very own King Arthur Flour is listed as one of the few producers with strict quality controls in place.
Original post from In Flora's Kitchen.
As more and more people eat gluten-free, more and more products labeled gluten-free are hitting the shelves. But what does it mean when something is labeled gluten-free?
I suppose a lot of people are misinformed and believe grains that are naturally gluten-free, say corn for example, would be gluten-free. However, how was it transported, handled, stored, milled, packaged, etc? These issues are real and all too often overlooked by companies trying to get a piece of the very lucrative gluten-free pie.
Recently I became aware of a mill (Butte Creek Mill) in my state that grinds flour, including “gluten-free” flours. However, I could not find any information on their website about how they prevented cross-contamination with their gluten-containing products. I love local, small companies, so I was eager to use their products; I emailed them via their website “contact us” form asking how they ensure the gluten-free products are gluten-free. Here is their response:
The only true gluten free items we sell in the store, are things that we have brought in from other companies (packaged items).  We only have one milling room and one packing room, so there could be a dusting of wheat on our products.  If you are celiac, we do not recommend using our products.  We do have many gluten free flours that we mill here, (rice, quinoa, corn, etc.), but once again, they could have a dusting of gluten.
Hope that helps,
Thank you.
Seriously. I was pretty annoyed with this lame response. Personally, I do not believe that companies should be able to market or label items gluten-free when they are in no way ensuring the products are in fact gluten-free. This issue is extremely important for all those with Celiac or wheat allergies and I am hoping that the FDA makes law the proposed “gluten-free” labeling rule which requires that all products labeled gluten-free have less than 20ppm. This is the standard that most countries have in effect.
The FDA is taking public comment [...] on this issue for a next several weeks and I am hoping you’ll join me and take the time to comment the importance of regulating the label “gluten-free.” For all the time, money, and effort we put into preparing safe meals for ourselves or our loved ones, I think we deserve safe products. If they are marked gluten-free, they should truly be gluten-free.
And I should mention there are companies like Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur Flour that have precautions and testing in place to ensure the safety of consumers. These companies are going above and beyond any current regulations and I think their efforts should really be praised. Yes, their products cost a bit more than other brands on the store shelves, but when I grab one of their products I know it was batch tested and I feel they are the safest options available to me.

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