Food Allergy Support Groups

I am shocked at the number of customers who come into our cafe, deli and bakery who are going it alone when it comes to their or their child’s food allergies.  FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) has a wealth of information available to you as well as a link to local support groups.  All you have to do is look.  If there is not one in your area, you can start your own. I urge everyone to find the support they need and forge new friendships with people who have the same problems!

Click Here to Find the Support You Need!

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Cheeri-Oh-Nos, Not GF Says Canadian Celiac Association!

In the summer and fall of 2015, I spent a lot of time blogging about the sloppy processing and testing of General Mills “Gluten Free” (GF) Cheerios. Not only are they not using certified GF Oats, they are using sub-par testing methods to make their”GF” claim! Hence the nickname that I gave them; “Cheeri-Oh-Nos”! The Canadian Celiac Association has just advised those with Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity not to eat them.

What happened and why have I been perpetually banging my head against the proverbial brick wall for over a year? How can this be so?  You just won’t believe it, so here is the re-cap and update.

Basically, the problem is that General Mills (GM) is using contaminated oats and “shaking” them in order to get off the offending wheat, rye and barley. Then they are using a testing method known as “means testing” to get their final ppm. A product must test below 20ppm to be called Gluten Free. So, if they make a batch of cheerios, they will  take out several samples…if one sample is 21pm, one is 80ppm and one is 5ppm..they would combine those to get the actual parts per million. Then they would keep adding in batches at lower ppm to get their 20ppm score. That is dangerous because in the end, you can mix them together over and over but there is still a high likelihood that some or many boxes will test higher than 20ppm.  The big problem is that they were not testing the final batch or boxes.

This practice resulted in many Celiacs getting sick and complaints to the FDA. Eventually GM had to recall 1.8 million boxes of GF Cheerios.  How can this be? Well, it is simple folks, the FDA does not mandate testing or a particular method for testing..they suggest that each company regulate themselves.  Yup, GM is NOT looking out for those with Celiac Disease or allergies to wheat, rye and barley!

A regular (celiac) customer came in last month and told me that his blood levels were elevated and he was having stomach problems and could not figure out why because everything he is eating is GF. He told me he would be going in for new endoscopy and biopsy in the next few weeks. I asked him, to tell me what he was eating for breakfast and he said “GF Cheerios”.   I asked when his issues started…he said around that time. He was shocked when I filled him in on the happenings. I directed him to my blog articles from last year and suggested he also do a google search and read what Gluten Free Watchdog has been saying and also suggested he remove the “GF” Cheerios and see how he does.

If you are a Celiac, Gluten Sensitive, or have an allergy to wheat, rye or barley; you are playing a game of Russian Roulette if you are eating GM’s GF Cereals.

Many of us have been outraged that the Celiac Associations in the US have not been more vocal about this. Last month the Canadian Celiac Association recommended that those with Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity not eat them.  Gluten Free Living Magazine just wrote an article about this. Click Here to Read Article

bang head here

 

 

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm!

thingthatmakeyougohmmm

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!

Coconut Alert: Always Read Ingredients!

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Photo: Left”Cheddar” new packaging and  Right”Swiss” old packaging.

As many of you know, having Celiac Disease and/or Food Allergies means you need to read the entire ingredient label every time.  We have to do the same thing here. I always tell people that when there is a packaging change, often, that is when a manufacturing company might change their ingredients.  This happened to us recently with Daiya brand non-dairy cheeses.

One of the common ingredients in all Daiya Products is Coconut Oil.  Many with coconut allergies will still eat this product because the coconut protein is removed during processing and many won’t even take a chance on it.  It all depends on what their allergist has told them regarding coconut oil.

A couple of weeks ago we opened a new shipment of Daiya “Cheddar Cheese” Slices and  my husband Dave noticed the new packaging and checked the ingredient label. Sure enough, the label listed “Creamed Coconut” as an ingredient and “Coconut Oil” was no longer on their ingredient list.  I immediately checked the company website and it did not list “creamed coconut” on any product.  Next, I sent an email to them inquiring and voicing my concern for those with Coconut Allergies; knowing  that”creamed coconut” would never be safe for someone with a Coconut Allergy.

The next day Daiya returned my email explaining that they had re-formulated the “Cheddar” and “Swiss” slices with creamed coconut, however, many customers like me voiced our concern and they switched back to the old recipe using coconut oil. I explained that the “Swiss” that I had was still ok and this was the first package we received with the ingredient change.  They explained that all “cheddar” and “swiss” slices will eventually be back to the old recipe, I just probably did not get a new batch until the most recent shipment.

So, if you have a Coconut Allergy and use Daiya “Swiss” or “Cheddar” slices, please read the ingredient labels.  If you have a coconut allergy and come here to dine off of our Blue Menu, we cannot give you the Daiya “Cheddar” slices until we get the original recipe back.

ALWAYS READ THE LABEL!

 

 

 

504 Plans For School Children with Celiac or Food Allergies

Food Allergies and Celiac Disease have been recognized under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Many parents have put these plans in place to safe guard their child at school. I have written several articles over the years about the importance of having a 504 Plan for your Celiac and/or Food Allergic Child in the school. Countless customers have told me  stories about their child ingesting gluten or being exposed to allergens at school.  A 504 plan puts your child’s needs in writing and it has to be followed at school. Often parents tell me that their child’s school tried to discourage this. If you don’t have a 504 Plan in place, the school does not have to do anything to accommodate your child.”

Recently our Baker, Jennifer, got a 504 Plan in place for her Celiac son at his elementary school. This plan should be able to follow him through middle school and high school and it can be altered as needed.

Jennifer says; “Even if you think your school is doing an excellent job in handling your child’s celiac disease it’s still a good idea to have a 504 in place. What if your family has to move? The new school might not be as accommodating. The 504 will move with your child and they will be required to take the necessary precautions. What if your current administration (principals and asst principals) change? The new administration will be required to follow the 504 plan guidelines.”

The American Celiac Disease Alliance has great resources as does FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). The links below give you samples and guidance.

http://americanceliac.org/for-families/

http://www.foodallergy.org/managing-food-allergies/at-school