Gluten Free Fitness

celiac disease

Contamination in Naturally Gluten Free Grains

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Contamination in Naturally Gluten Free Grains – but Don’t Panic

Previously, Aaron posted about the proposed FDA guidelines for labeling an item gluten free.  These guidelines would allow products with less than 20 ppm (parts per million) to be labeled gluten free.  My thoughts were that if you eat one item that contains 20 ppm of gluten, there may be no issue.  However, if you have multiple items, does that gluten have an additive effect?  It is like eating something with a considerably larger amount of gluten?

We don’t know.

My thoughts are to focus on naturally gluten free foods and eliminate the worry.  In the proposed rule, single ingredient foods that are considered inherently gluten free (think rice, millet, amaranth) can be considered misbranded if they are labeled gluten free.  They would have to be labeled gluten free and also state that all foods of that type are gluten free.  (Like labeling an apple low fat.  It would have to say-“all apples are low fat.”)

Or not.

Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, and well known in the celiac community, was recently involved in a research study that examined naturally gluten free grains, and tested them for gluten.    Their findings indicate that naturally gluten free grains can be, and are, contaminated with gluten.

So much for sticking to naturally gluten free foods to avoid the 20 ppm of gluten, eh?

Cross contamination with gluten?!? WAH!

Photo credit waggg

They tested 22 types of naturally gluten free grains that were not labeled gluten free.  7 of the 22 included a voluntary allergen statement for wheat.  (I’m assuming that this is the “processed in a facility which also processes wheat” statement.)  From Tricia’s write up on the study “products included white rice and flour, brown rice, corn meal, polenta, buckwheat and buckwheat flour, amaranth seed and flour, flax seed, millet grain and flour, sorghum flour, and soy flour.”

The results:

Let’s look first at the ones that had the allergy advisory for wheat.  Out of those 7, 4 tested had above 5 ppm (5 ppm was considered the threshold for gluten with the testing they used-this is less than the proposed FDA guideline) and 3 had less than 5 ppm.  Seems a bit of a crap shoot, doesn’t it?

For the remaining 15 that did not have the wheat allergen advisory, 5 items were over the 5 ppm of gluten.  10 were below.

The conclusion from Tricia’s write up:

Results of this study confirm that a certain percentage of inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours are NOT gluten-free when they are purchased by consumers. Co-mingling of grain and seed can occur anywhere along the line from the field to the packaging plant.

Results also suggest that consumers can not rely on voluntary allergen advisory statements for wheat to make decisions about which products are more or less likely to be contaminated. Four of seven products containing greater than or equal to 20 ppm gluten did not contain an allergen statement for wheat while three of the products that contained below the limit of quantification for gluten did contain an allergen advisory statement.

While we can infer from this study that some degree of contamination exists in naturally gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours sampling was not large enough to make any assessment on the overall percentage of contaminated product.

Sampling also was not large enough to make any inferences on the specific grains, flours, and seeds more or less likely to be contaminated.”

  • To note: This study was funded in part by Schar USA, a manufacturer of prepared gluten-free foods.  It’s always good to look and see who funds any research you may be interested in.  In this particular case, I certainly don’t think that Schar framed the study by intentionally contaminating anything, and the testing procedures seem very cut and dry.  It does not appear that the funding would have had any impact on this study.

So what’s the take home from all this?

Well, don’t panic.  As noted above, the sample size (number of products and grains tested) was not large enough to make any sweeping conclusions.  It does certainly warrant additional testing, as well as continued tweaking to the proposed gluten free labeling guidelines.

For me, it reinforces what I  tend to do anyway-utilize white and sweet potato, rice, and gluten free oats for the majority of my carbohydrate sources.  There could still be contamination in the rice, but for now, that’s what I’m going to do.

After all, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.  You just never know.

What are your thoughts?

FYI-I’ve added a new free downloadable “tips” PDF to Gluten Free and Fit 101-go check it out!

Addendum: Tricia has now added a Part 2

Leave comments below-are you going to change anything you currently eat based on this information?


Celiac Awareness Month 2012: KISS it, and then Spread the Bread

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Celiac Awareness Month 2012: KISS it…

and Spread the Bread

But, the good folks over at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness were way more on the ball than me, thank goodness.  I’ve done some work with them in the past, and they are always doing stellar work for the celiac and gluten free communities.

National Celiac Awareness Month is here, and what celebration would be complete without a blogger campaign? This year, the NFCA rounded up 16 bloggers for a series chronicling every stage of the gluten-free journey, from Day 1 basics to advanced cooking and advocacy.

In keeping with this year’s theme, Keep It Simple and Safe, each blogger is offering 5 key tips or lessons related to that day’s topic.

Weekly Focus

  • Monday – Cooking/Baking Gluten-Free
  • Tuesday – Nutrition/Wellness
  • Wednesday – Raising a Gluten-Free Kid
  • Thursday – Dining Out Gluten-Free
  • Friday – NFCA Resources You Should Know About

Schedule and Guest Bloggers

Week 1: Just Diagnosed (April 30-May 4)

Week 2: Getting the Hang of It (May 7-11)

Week 3: Hitting a Roadblock (May 14-18)

  • Diane Eblin of The WHOLE Gang – 5 tips to get out of a food rut
  • Alisa Fleming of Go Dairy Free  – First gluten-free, now lactose intolerant? 5 tips to becoming a dairy-free diva
  • Michael De Cicco-Butz of Gluten-Free Mike – Traveling while gluten-free
  • NFCA – 5 resources to handle life’s hurdles

Week 4: What’s Next? (May 21-25)

  • Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple – Publishing your gluten-free recipes
  • EA Stewart of The Spicy RD – Healthy gluten-free foods you’ve never heard of
  • Katie Chalmers of G-Free Kid – 5 tips to empower gluten-free kids
  • Carrie Forbes of Ginger Lemon Girl – Starting a gluten-free dining group
  • NFCA – Ready to fundraise? Here’s how to start

My post is titled “5 Tips to Avoid the Pitfalls of Processed Gluten Free Food and Weight Gain.”  Check it out and share!  It’s something we’ve all been though at some point.

Also for Celiac Awareness Month, Rudi’s Gluten Free is offering their “Spread the Bread” campaign and donating $$ to the celiac organization of your choice.  I recommend the NFCA, but all the organizations are doing fantastic work and your donations will be well spent.  They are going to give up to $30,000 back to the amazing organizations making a difference in our community.

Through the rest of May, fans of Rudi’s Gluten-Free on Facebook will be able to select one of four celiac organizations (Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Sprue Association, Gluten Intolerance Group and National Foundation for Celiac Awareness) to receive a $1 donation from Rudi’s Gluten-Free and will then be able to download a $1 off coupon for any Rudi’s Gluten-Free product. It’s as simple as, “Get a Dollar. Give a Dollar.”  It’s a win/win!  I almost always have a loaf of Rudi’s Multi Grain Bread in my freezer.

For more info, you’ll want to check out Gluten Free and Fit 101, where I’ve compiled posts that I think would be most helpful to those starting on a gluten free diet, or those who have been eating gluten free, but are ready to kick up their nutritional know how and health status to the next level.

If you’re tired of searching around for information and want a step by step system for living a healthier gluten free life, then check out my “7 Quick Start Tips for Living a Healthy Gluten Free Fit Life.”

So there you go.  Happy Celiac Awareness Month!  Go spread some knowledge bombs and spread the bread as well.

UPDATED 2/10/2012: WARNING!! Some Flavors of Muscle Gauge Protein Powder MAY Contain Gluten

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Please scroll down for the latest info.

I have not yet received confirmation from the company themselves, but as this has been an issue that I have been trying to get a straight answer on since 12/28/11, and today is 1/11/12, I felt it time to alert you all.

Previously, (10/6/2010) I had written a review of Muscle Gauge Nutrition protein powder.

At the time that was written, I was advised by the company in an email that:

not only is our facility gluten free and we test the products but on  top of that we make sure that any facilities we work in conjunction with send us full certificates of analysis for their products. ALL PRODUCTS ARE GLUTEN FREE AND ALL FLAVORS.

This email was dated 9/22/10.

I am not sure if something has changed in the formulation and/or manufacturing in the meanwhile, as the packaging of the Ice Cream Sandwich flavor of American Isolate which I had purchased still states “gluten free” and the ingredient profile does not indicate any gluten containing items.  I had never used this particular flavor in the past.

HOWEVER, when I opened the package I spotted what appeared to be cookie pieces.

Cookie pieces?

Alarmed, I sent a contact form on the company website asking about the “pieces” in the Ice Cream Sandwich flavor.  This was on 12/28/11.  I received a call from one of their customer service representatives that same morning.  I asked about the “pieces”, and he stated that yes, they were cookie pieces in order to mimic the ice cream sandwich flavor.

I asked about the ingredients in the cookie pieces, because obviously if these cookies are made with any type of gluten the product is in fact, NOT gluten free.  It seemed unlikely to me that they were using gluten free cookies in the product.  The rep assured me that he felt certain that the product was gluten free, and that he would send me the full ingredient list and certificate of analysis for that particular flavor.

Still waiting…

Well, I’ve yet to receive anything.  Granted, we have had the holidays, so perhaps that is the delay.  I did follow up with a repeat email to info@musclegauge.com on 1/4/12, and have not received any response at all to that inquiry, a week later.

I have also NOT “tested” it to see if I have a reaction.  Sorry guys, not putting myself into intentionally glutening for the sake of review.  I have to draw the line somewhere.  I did however, want to post this so the information is out there for others to be aware of.

This situation brings up several great points.

  1. Formulations change.
    As of this point I am giving them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps in fact it is still gluten free, but I am not banking on it.  A good reason to always recheck and double check ingredients and labels.
  2. The fact that there is no FDA guideline for the “gluten free” label.
    If there was, the product would not be able to be labeled gluten free unless it truly was tested at <20ppm.  At this point gluten free labeling in and of itself is a free for all, which is even a better reason to look for products with a gluten free certification.
  3. Vote with your dollars.
    At this point, I will not purchase any other products from Muscle Gauge and cannot recommend them.  I have told all the sports supplement companies that I have had contact with about the importance of maintaining a gluten free product that is not just gluten free but safe for celiacs, the benefits of GF certification, and the buying power and loyalty of the celiac and gluten intolerant community.  If companies step up and meet these requirements, they will be rewarded with the business of the huge, vocal, and growing gluten free market.  If not, then we will take our business elsewhere.

Once again, as I have received no clarification from the company I cannot say that the product in fact is not gluten free.

But the presence of cookie pieces and the lack of response to my inquiries makes me very nervous.  I hope that I am wrong and that they provide me with a COA showing that there is no gluten.  Meanwhile, I am assuming the worst.  I felt it my responsibility to alert you all to my experiences so you can make your own educated decisions.

If you have had any similar experiences, please do share and post them.  Together, we can make a change in awareness.


UPDATE:

After another email to the company, I received a response from the Founder and CEO Osagie Osunde.  He stated that the Ice Cream Sandwich protein flavor is in fact NOT GLUTEN FREE due to the fact that crushed Hydrox cookies are used as flavoring.

To quote his email:

The ice cream sandwich flavor is not gluten free because of the crushed Hydrox cookies that are in the product. All of our other flavors are gluten free.

I responded to his email with the below, copied and pasted:

Thank you for the response.  No COA is needed at this point. This is a huge concern because of the lack of allergen labeling.  I suggest you do a press release and voluntary recall for undeclared wheat.  I would prefer to not have to report the violation to the FDA, which can be avoided with a voluntary recall.

http://www.celiac.com/articles/22804/1/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-False-Gluten-Free-Labeling-/Page1.html

I have celiac disease.  Thankfully I saw the cookie pieces before I drank the shake, or I would have become extremely sick.  The container is labeled gluten free.  Obviously this is incorrect.  Gluten free labeling must be taken seriously.  If your other flavors are processed on the same equipment as the ice cream sandwich flavor cookies, the possibility for cross contamination is serious.

Please do keep me posted on your intentions in handling this issue.

That email was sent on 2/2/12.  I have had no response since.

I am hugely disappointed on multiple levels.  The blatant disregard for proper labeling, the lack of prompt communication, and the lack of response regarding what is obviously a gigantic liability issue.  I will be filing a complaint with the FDA.

 

Gluten Free for the Holidays

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Gluten Free for the Holidays, and we conjugate our own verbs around here – Glutened

How is it almost Thanksgiving?!?  Really?!

I am the chief cook and bottle washer for Thanksgiving, so fortunately I have the POWER!!

(If you are approximately my age, you will get the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe reference.  If not, enjoy the kitteh at least.)

There is a metric ton of great information being shared out there in the gluten free world about staying safe this holiday season, and making some kick ass recipes while you’re at it.

So here’s a quick and dirty low down on some of the info.

There is definitely more out there that I am not hitting, so be sure to click the links at each of these resources for some more great stuff.

 

You’ll get them at Home for the Holidays, Gluten Free Style.  Be sure to check in over at gfe for the details!

That’s it for now!  Go forth and be healthy, happy, and as wise as you need to be, but cut loose from time to time.

The Most Important Meal of the Day: Gluten Free Brinner

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Yes, that’s right.  Brinner.

Just in case you have not seen this fine piece of film, I hereby share with you the clip from the notoriously funny show, “Scrubs.”  It’s totally worth the 40 seconds.

My friends Kim and Kim (funnily enough, and no I did not plan that) at Cook IT Allergy Free and Gluten Free is Life are also big fans of brinner.  What’s not to like, really?  In the days before my celiac diagnosis, after a stressful day at work I would sometimes go out with some of my fellow therapists for pancakes aka “breakfast for dinner.” Same thing.  Hence: brinner.

Now that I am a gluten avoider, and also a bit more aware of the impact that those carb and sugar heavy meals (pancakes, ya’ll) had on my physiology and my physique, my perspective on brinner choices has evolved.

But not my love of brinner.

It’s kind of hard to beat brinner.

You have many choices when it comes to preparing a gluten free, nutritious brinner.  And really, who’s rules say that “breakfast” foods have to be eaten in the morning anyhow.  Really.

Here’s a short, totally-not-all-inclusive list of some ideas for a celiac or gluten sensitive friendly brinner:

OK, so now on to my particular brinner.  This was a kind-of-a-frittata version of my egg bake.  I used Al Fresco Chicken Sausage and here’s why.  There’s an old joke that sausage means “we don’t know what’s in it either,” but that’s not the case with these babies.  This is the ingredient list on the Sun Dried Tomato, which is the type I use the most.

  • SKINLESS CHICKEN MEAT
  • WATER
  • SEASONING (SALT, TURBINADO SUGAR, SPICES, TOMATO POWDER, DEHYDRATED ONION & GARLIC, PAPRIKA, BASIL, NATURAL FLAVOR)
  • DICED TOMATOES,SUNDRIED TOMATOES (UNSULFURED)
  • NATURAL PORK CASING.

Nice!  All recognizable as food by my great grandmother.  No nitrates, nitrites, or gluten.  And they are already cooked.

Check out my frittata egg bake recipe here.

What’s your favorite brinner?  Hit it up in the comments and share your ideas!