Funny Story #1: We all have those times when we hear something and can’t believe we heard it. Then, we have no choice but to assume that the person is kidding. Then, if that is not the case, you just play along and are left shaking your head. Our line-cook, Kendall, had just that type of experience last week. I hope this one makes you laugh too!
Kendall was working the front counter when a customer and a friend came in to eat. The customer is gluten sensitive, and the friend had never been here before. He had no food restrictions whatsoever. So, Kendall explained the menu to the friend (who was in his late 20’s or early 30’s), we will just call him “Tom”. Tom decided on our Cheese Steak Sub. Kendall went over condiment choices with him and he rattled off everything he wanted on his cheese steak:
Tom: “Mayo, Lettuce, Tomato, Sauteed Onions…and can I get gluten on it too?”
Kendall: “No, I am sorry; as I explained before, the facility is free of gluten.”
Tom: “Yeah, I know; but I CAN have Gluten, can’t you just add it to mine?”
Kendall: “No, I can’t. I am sorry.”
Kendall shared a glance with the regular customer and a smile. Kendall later told me that she could not believe it, she thought he was kidding. However, the look on Tom’s friend’s face definitely said that he was not kidding.
So, this is definitely the first time we have had a customer who thought Gluten was a condiment that you can add to a sandwich! We all laughed until our faces hurt. But, this is a great reminder of how little the general public knows about Gluten.
Serious Story #2: Labeling Disaster at our Local Giant Food
A member recently posted on the Chesapeake Celiac Support Facebook page about Bourbon BBQ Sauce made by Giant…it makes a gluten free claim on the front of the label, but clearly has wheat as an ingredient in the soy sauce in it. The other issue is the Bourbon! This is not allowed under the FDA Labeling. The law is that no ingredient that actually contains wheat, rye or barley can be used in a product bearing a GF Label, even if it contains less than 20ppm! Hence, Gluten removed beers can no longer claim them to be GF because they can’t validate with testing that the Barley has been removed! (Schar products use a product called “codex wheat starch” that is processed to remove the wheat, so it is allowed, but they still have to say “contains codex wheat starch processed to remove wheat”.) So, you may be asking “how can this happen?”
There is no federal oversight; people can just do what they want until they get caught! Pure ignorance on Giant’s part. Here is the response Giant Food gave to the person who bought the product and inquired:
” Irene, thanks for raising the question about this product. Our Own Brand’s Quality Team provided this explanation. Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Thus, all products with wheat, contain some gluten. The Banjo BBQ Sauce contains soy sauce, which has wheat as a sub-ingredient. The wheat that is in the soy sauce, does contain gluten, but only a very, very small amount.
FDA mandates gluten-free labeling. In order for a product to be labeled “gluten-free”, it must have <20 ppm of gluten. This product has been tested for gluten, and not only does it meet the <20ppm threshold, but it actually contains <5ppm of gluten. Thus, we can guarantee that the product meets the standard to label the product “gluten-free”, even though it does contain very trace amounts of gluten.
We understand that this could be confusing to customers, and thus, in order to be 100% transparent, the supplier is working to reformulate the product to remove soy sauce. Post-reformulation, there will be no wheat listed in the ingredient statement and should reduce customer confusion. I hope this explanation helps. Should you have other questions about any of our Own Brand products please feel free to call the toll free number and our representatives will be glad to help.”
Oh, please! That was a big lie. So, if this is really true, why would they be reformulating it to remove the soy sauce? Oh, and isn’t Bourbon made with Rye? Bourbon is 51% corn and the remainder is usually malted barley comprised of rye or wheat. There is no safe way to remove the rye, or at least verify that the rye has been removed. So, the problem is the wheat in the soy sauce and possibly rye or wheat in the bourbon. Those are my red flags.
Basically, Giant Food is telling their customers with Wheat Allergies and Celiac Disease that they don’t care enough about you to do it right. They are also saying that when you catch us lying to you, we are still going to lie to you when trying to explain ourselves. They brazenly assumed that we all are stupid.
You still need to be vigilant out there and you need to understand the labeling laws yourself because there is no FDA oversight because the GF Labeling Law is VOLUNTARY not mandatory!
I won’t be supporting my local Giant Food any longer. We had this issue a few years ago with a bourbon chicken that they were selling and claiming that all of their Deli Meats were gluten free. They did not care then and they don’t care now. This incident has been reported to Gluten Free Watchdog.
Great job Irene. Stay Vigilant Folks!