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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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.