Sunday, April 28, 2013

Always Read Your Food Packaging

Just because it's located in the gluten-free section of your grocery store, just because it SAYS "gluten-free", that doesn't mean that THIS can't happen:


Oh? Gluten-free, you say? Well what about that fine print over on the side? The part that says "May contain traces of GLUTEN".

That kind of thing may be fine for people who are on a gluten-free diet because they mistakenly think it's trendy and a good way to lose weight. (Read up on it, people. It's not "cool" and packaged gluten-free food is usually higher in calories than regular processed food.)

But for people who have Celiac Disease, for people who can't tolerate ANY gluten, this is not good.

This company also produces gluten-free spaghetti, penne, fusilli, and tortiglioni. But is it really gluten-free???

Amy's brand of food also does this. Some of Amy's soups say "gluten-free", but then below that it says "May contain wheat." And it's a shame because Amy's is the only soup brand that I've found that makes a gluten-free vegetable soup. But is it really gluten-free? How are we supposed to know? How can you label something "gluten-free" if it still might contain gluten?

There's a whole thing about how a product labeled gluten-free can still contain a certain amount of gluten. Right now, something can be labeled "gluten-free" if it contains less than 20 gluten parts per million (ppm). It appears that most manufacturers follow this protocol, and some go even lower with 10 or 5 ppm. (Click here to view a table of some companies that manufacture gluten-free products and the ppm in their products. There is also information about whether or not the food is produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. Ugo Foods is not on the list. Amy's products are made in a shared facility.)

So when it says "gluten-free" AND "may contain gluten", does that mean it adheres to the 20 ppm rule, but there might be more than 20 ppm?

Since 2006, companies have been required to label the presence of eight major allergens, including wheat, on the product packaging. But there's still more to be done, and the FDA hasn't finalized its gluten-free labeling requirements even though it was supposed to get done last year!

It's all very confusing, and I wish it weren't, especially because Celiac Disease can be serious if a Celiac person doesn't cut out gluten. If you find yourself confused or unsure, then just don't buy that product. It's up to you, the Celiac consumer, to be informed, to research your food, to know how much gluten can make you sick, and determine whether or not you want to take the risk of maybe ingesting gluten.

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