Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why Foodies Should Care About Wheat/Gluten Food Labeling.

Wheat and Gluten are hot topics when it comes to food.  Yeah, it is a fad.  But for some of us, it is more serious.

I avoid some of the gluten-free events at the local Whole Paycheck simply because I'm not even-tempered enough to not have stabby thoughts overhearing conversations of people who are gluten-free as a fad, people who can fall off the wagon without a lot of ill effects.

You're making it harder for the world to take those of us who CAN NOT have wheat or gluten a lot harder.

In the gluten-free world, there was recently a kerfuffle over an idiot cook who posted on his Facebook page that he served regular pasta to people and told them it was "gluten-free".  And yes, for people who do it as a fad, they may not notice.  Do that to me?  I'd be sick for days.

Wheat/gluten allergies and celiac tend to fall somewhere between the extremes of peanut allergies and general food intolerance.  Most of us are not going to die if we accidentially have some exposure to wheat, but there is a reason we avoid the stuff.  I don't need to feel like I have hundreds of tiny mosquito bites on my hands (one thing that happens to me after I have wheat).  It does not kill me, but it is damned uncomfortable.

I've been doing this since September of last year.  And although I read labels and do my best... I have a reaction to something almost every week.  Flour is not always clearly labeled on food.  If the people making a product are lax with their vendors, they might be getting spices that are "stretched" with flour.  I have huge problems with candies that don't contain wheat but are also processed on the same equipment as candies with wheat ingredients.  I have two stainless steel pots that I can no longer use for myself since they have pretty much only been used to cook pasta for the past 15 years.

I would really, really like the FDA to step up and set some guidelines for gluten-free labeling.  It's not hard to figure out if something is gluten-free.  If you, as a producer, know all the sources and you know how your product is produced, it's not hard to determine if it is gluten-free or not.  If it is?  Great.  If it's not?  I really would rather know something is NOT safe even if it means I can no longer eat it.

Trader Joes used to be a favorite store of mine.  Not so much anymore.  To the fad gluten-free people or those who do not totally understand, it looks like they have a lot of gluten-free products because they stick a "no gluten ingredients" label on every product that they can.  Well, good, you didn't use wheat flour.  But did anyone make sure there were no grains of wheat in the lentils used to make this?  (Wheat grains in dried lentils happen)  Was this soup cooked in a pot that is also used to cook a soup with wheat noodles?  Are the sources of cornmeal and oats for this gluten-free?  (Those are two things notorious for getting contaminated during processing)  "No gluten ingredients" does not always mean gluten-free.  And labeling like that is NOT helping.

I just want food to be labeled as clearly as for other allergens.  And you should want it to.  Unless you're cooking totally from scratch, there are things in your food that they are not telling you about.  And it should make you mad, too.

1 comment:

That Word Guy said...

Have you used Barkeeper's Friend on you stainless steel pots? It contains an acid that gets out the itty-bitty food particles, even from the microscopic pits in the metal surface.