Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Article: Gluten-free food labels reviewed by FDA for trust issues

I've been instructing people to know labeling and manufacturing policies for years. Individuals are taking a risk every time they simply rely on an ingredient label to determine whether or not a product is gluten-free. Many individuals forget that wheat is the only ingredient that is required to be clearly disclosed on ingredient labels. The other forms of gluten (barley, rye, and sometimes oats) are not required to be disclosed and can easily be included in ingredients such as natural flavors. Even products that do not actually contain gluten can easily be cross contaminated with various forms of gluten too.

In my opinion, it doesn't take that long to do a little research into the company to find out what their labeling and manufacturing practices are. Are they unsure? If they're unsure, shouldn't you be?

Today, I discovered the article Gluten-free food labels reviewed by FDA for trust issues which is the first time I've seen a study done to prove my point. The article states:
Researchers found that 98.9 percent of the products they tested met the FDA rules for gluten-free labels. This means that the items had less than 20 ppm of gluten. Although this is positive news for people with celiac disease who depend on these labels, there is another aspect that needs to be considered. Food products that were not labeled as gluten-free but did not have obvious sources of the protein in the ingredient list were a problem. They found that 19.4 percent of these items had more than 20 ppm of gluten.
Read that last sentence again:
They found that 19.4 percent of these items had more than 20 ppm of gluten. 
Can I please yell out "I told you so!"???

This is exactly why I do my research. I may not have the money to test every product I consume, but I can definitely be familiar with which brands clearly label all forms of gluten and have good manufacturing practices so that I can simply read their label to know.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone asks if a product is gluten-free, and the answer they receive is, "I never react to it" or "I eat it with no problems" or some other ridiculous response that has absolutely no basis in fact or reality (this happens often on gluten-free forums). I see people recommending they contact the manufacturer but other people seem to think they're being ridiculous and wasting their time. Someone will state that they have contacted the manufacturer and were told that it is not gluten free, and someone else will still argue with them that they've never reacted to it, therefore it must be safe.

Ultimately, my opinion is something along the lines of "to each their own," but I would love if I could get the word out there that it isn't worth it to eat items that aren't necessarily safe. Why is the gluten-free community supporting brands such as Kraft even though Kraft states their products that contain "colors, flavors, or spices" may contain gluten (part of the issue may be that Kraft has their old labeling policy on outdated web pages on their various sites). Why don't we speak out to Kraft to get them to change their policy back to their old policy that clearly stated all forms of gluten? Why don't we stop buying their products so that they feel the financial repercussions and have incentive to change? Obviously Kraft is not the only company, but they've done an excellent job of ticking me off so I usually use them as my example. They're also the largest company that I'm aware of that has gone from having a very clear labeling policy to a very unclear labeling policy.

(stepping off soapbox)

Back to the article. Do you know what's in the food you're eating? Do you take the little bit of extra time it takes to confirm the items you're eating? I'll be the first to admit that I am overly careful because I am scared to death of cancer. My luck will be I'll get another kind of cancer, but I will take every step possible to avoid colon cancer by taking every precaution against ingesting gluten.

I strongly urge everyone to contact companies. Show them your appreciation for clearly labeling their products or show them your displeasure at their vague statements or inability to know. Don't be too hard on smaller companies (they have smaller pocket books to have separate prep areas, etc), and never be rude as that will cause companies to think the gluten-free community is full of jerks. Be clear, concise, and polite. Show them we stick together.

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