Gluten Free Watchdog

Many customers ask me how I learn about unsafe gluten free items so I decided to share this incredible site with you.  Gluten Free Watchdog randomly purchases and tests products for the presence of gluten.  Every week I get emails from them with test results of the products they have tested.  They test items based on what their subscribers want them to test and they test items randomly as well.

This is how I found out that GF Cheerios were not really GF. (see 2 previous blog posts)  I had heard this from many customers as well..telling me how sick they got when they tried them.  It all made sense when I read GF Watchdog’s report on them and how they are not using certified GF oats and they are not using solid testing methods to test the product.  I also learned about a Teff Flour today that is testing higher than 50ppm and it is Certified GF!

How does this happen?  How do you find out about it?

It is easy, just sign up on their website.  The cost is $5 per month and you get more than what you pay for from this invaluable service.

Click Here to Learn More

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Non Hybridized Wheat and Spelt

Okay, the subject on “non hybridized wheat and spelt” comes up time and time again so I thought I would set the record straight for all of you.  I had a good laugh last week.  At first it was not funny..I was actually concerned. So here is the story and I am going to use this as a learning experience for you all.

A customer came in saying she had to eat gluten-free (GF). She went on to say that she eats healthy GF breads made with Spelt; also known as Farro or Dinkel.  She wanted to make sure my breads contained this “healthy” Spelt in them.  I think she wanted to educated me about healthy GF eating. I explained to her that we are a GF Facility and that Spelt is NOT Gluten-Free and not allowed in my facility!  She  was stunned.  We were very busy and I was going to try to talk with her further but she just walked out. Maybe she was embarrassed because her husband looked stunned when I said Spelt was not GF.

A person with Celiac Disease (CD) or Gluten Sensitivity (GS) or Wheat Allergy cannot eat Spelt and cannot eat Non Hybridized Wheat when they are traveling in Europe!  I hear so much garbage about this from customers and people on the internet.

Spelt/Farro/Dinkel is gluten. Non Hybridized ancient grains are just as toxic to a Celiac as the modern grains! PERIOD.

There are nuns in Europe producing “GF” Communion Wafers with non-hybridized wheat that they are saying is Celiac Safe.  Wrong. It is testing at 80 ppm….it is not safe folks! There is a safe GF Host out there gang. If your church won’t get it, you can choose to abstain! (I have done several posts on this)

No, I don’t take communion at church and I think GOD is okay with that decision. I could take communion and be sick for ten days and not be able to supply safe meals to those with CD and Food Allergies.  OR    I can skip communion and continue helping others suffering from CD and FA)  Mmmmm, this decision is “no brainer” for me and I don’t think there is a GOD who would hold this against me.

Eating Ancient Grains in Europe: I have heard gluten sensitive people say they went to Europe and ate “ancient non-hybridized wheat” and drank beer and they were fine. Really?  A Celiac would not do this.  So, to the GS folks who do this; maybe you just felt great because the food is so much fresher and not filled with junk and preservatives like it is here so it can sit on a shelf or a sidewalk and remain unchanged for a year!

food-festivals

Modern Wheat Breeding Does Not Contribute to Gluten Toxicity! (ie, the breeding of modern wheat is not what is causing CD or GS or allergies)

-Stay safe and don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

-Don’t believe that GF Cheerios are really GF.

-If you have CD, GS, Wheat, Rye or Barley Allergies, you should not eat Spelt,  Ancient Grains, or “GF Cheerios”. Period! (lots of posts about Cheerios on my blog)

http://naturalsciencenews.com/2016/12/13/modern-wheat-breeding-practices-do-not-contribute-to-gluten-toxicity/

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

 

 

Public Perception Of Celiac/Food Allergies

restaurant-gluten-free-joke

We all get to that place of utter frustration when it comes to dining out safely.  We walk away shaking our head saying “they just don’t get it”. Why is it so hard to eat out safely and how can we educate the public in order to change this? Let’s explore our plight and several ways that we can change the public’s perception.

Those who have Celiac Disease feel this frustration but we need to remember how much easier it is for those with Celiac Disease (CD) or Gluten Sensitivity (GS) than it is for those with life threatening Food Allergies (FA).  If you have both; it can be next to impossible to dine out. Those with Autism experience this when they put their child on a gluten-free or other special diet.

I feel like the Celiac Community just wants it all and they want it now; not really understanding why it is so hard for a restaurant to safely feed them. (Keep reading, I will tell you the top 4 obstacles to safe food)  Many clearly expect every restaurant to be able to safely serve their dietary needs.  For those with severe food allergies, they know it is life or death for them, so they don’t make such a big deal about it and simply choose to go without because it is safer. Yes, it is hard if you have CD or GS but it is even harder to have FA and that is why those with FA don’t take risks dining out because most places really don’t get it.  Think about it Celiacs; if cross contamination could kill you, would it be worth all of the risks that you take when dining out?

Where is the awareness? In Maryland they passed a Food Allergy Bill, but it is only voluntary. Only 3 of more than 30k restaurants took the training! Mmmm, it seems like the serious nature of a Food Allergy or Celiac Disease is not getting through to the general public.

Then, last month, Ted Cruz (running for president of the US) made an uninformed comment promising that he would not support the military supplying Gluten Free (GF) MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) to those who needed them. MRE’s are often used when deployed in remote areas.  This comment hit close to home for me and shows just how ignorant the masses are about Celiac Disease and Food Allergies. (A person with a wheat allergy would need GF MRE’s). I thought to myself; how can anyone be so uninformed? Yet, as I pondered this, Ted Cruz is certainly not alone when it comes to his ignorance about Celiac Disease or Food Allergies.

On Sunday, a friend and customer, Ben Andrasik, stopped in the cafe for a meal and some treats for his kids.  Ben served two tours of duty with the military in Afghanistan and wrote a book about his struggle and survival without GF meals. It gave us a chance to catch up and chat about some things. We discussed the public perception and we both feel that biggest struggle we face is lack of public awareness or understanding of the seriousness of Celiac Disease and Food Allergies. (You can read Ben’s book here at our cafe, it is in our library and it is called Gluten Free in Afghanistan by Cpt B. Donald Andrasik. You will have a chance to win a copy of his book at the end of this post.)

Contrary to what you might think; you can serve in the military if you have Celiac Disease. They just don’t go out of their way to safely feed you.  However, the military will accommodate a person who chooses to be vegan. Mmmmm.

 

The Top 4 Obstacles to Safe Food:

-# 1 Lack of Education of the general public about the seriousness of Celiac Disease and Food Allergies. The general public only hears about people eating gluten free as a diet trendnot as the only prescription to treat Celiac Disease.  In my opinion, that area is where our Celiac non-profits are failing us. The general public does not think Food Allergies are serious until someone they love has an anaphylactic reaction and this is shocking to me.

Let’s explore some statistics in the chart below. Notice how many Americans are living with Celiac, Food Allergies and Autism. Then look at the other diseases and how many are living with them. The numbers are far less for the rare diseases, but we all know what those rare diseases are and would not diminish their legitimacy or the prescription given to those who suffer from them! Since when does the only “prescription” to treat a disease come only in a “pill” or “injection” form from a pharmaceutical company? Why does the lack of a “pill” make Celiac Disease and the Gluten Free Diet not a legitimate disease and treatment?

I put this graphic together back in 2010 and it is still relevant today with a few updates to it…but it is still shocking.

CDGSAutismAllergies Photo

Given the numbers above, you would think that Celiac Disease and Food Allergies would be a top priority in the United States, but they are not viewed as legitimate by the mainstream public! Lets look at the totals as compared to Type 1 Diabetes:

Celiac Disease: 3 Million plus  18 Million Gluten Sensitive  = 21 Million

Food Allergies: 9 Million Adults plus 6 Million Children      = 15 Million

                                                                                                   Total = 36 Million Total

Type 1 Diabetes:                                                                               = 3 Million Total

How did we learn about many of the above rare diseases? Were we taught about them in high school? No. Did we have a family member with one? Possibly.  Primarily, we learned what those rare diseases were by their non-profit organizations and foundations raising awareness in mainstream media; via ads in TV, mainstream magazines and newspapers.

Remember Jerry Lewis doing telethons every Labor Day weekend for Muscular Dystrophy?  We hear about ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), who did not see the “bucket challenge” last year?  All of the above rare diseases have gotten the word out because their non-profit foundations are utilizing mainstream media in addition to marketing to those affected by the disease.

There are just as many people living with Celiac Disease as there are with Diabetes..many have Celiac too, but you would never know it when it comes down to the attention given to each! If Type 1 Diabetes could only be treated by diet and there was no insulin, you bet your “arse”  restaurants would be pandering to this population.  However, Diabetics have two Rx’s; diet and/or insulin. Diabetics control diet by counting carbohydrates & reducing sugar.  Sugar and carbohydrates are required to be disclosed on nutritional labels making it much easier for a person to manage their diabetes.  Yet, a Celiac must avoid Gluten, and is not required to be disclosed on labels. Mmmmm.

#2: Gluten is not required to be labeled or disclosed on nutritional labels. This is the main reason that mainstream restaurants struggle to feed Celiac’s safely! Yes, the Gluten Free Labeling Law passed; but it is not mandatory; it is voluntary only. In the US they only have to disclose wheat! Rye and barley don’t need to be disclosed and gluten can hide in many forms, natural flavors is one place. Mainstream products don’t need to tell you if there is gluten in them or not, they tell you if they want to!  In the US, they have to tell you if the recipe includes the top 8 allergens: wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish. Did you notice that rye and barley are not on the required list? (In Europe and Canada this is less of a problem because they label gluten and many additional allergens).

The #3 Reason: Manufacturing companies don’t need to prevent cross contamination! Yes, you read that correctly.  They only have to tell you what is purposely put in the product and if it contains the top 8 allergens. They don’t have to tell you if they accidentally contaminated the product with any allergens or anything else when processing or packaging.  They are also allowed to use the term “natural flavors”; so they don’t give away their “secret” ingredients; which could be anything!

#2 and #3 are why mainstream restaurants can’t safely feed you!  Really, come on, why would you expect them to get it right given the above? Are you having a light bulb moment?

The #4 Reason: We are not being heard by the general public! Currently, our associations are only getting the word out in media that is targeted at those of us already living with Celiac Disease or Food Allergies! We will never be taken seriously if the mainstream public is not educated and the mainstream media is only talking about Gluten-Free Fad Diets rather than Celiac Disease &/or Food Allergies.

Open any GF/AF Magazine and you usually see an ad from one of our associations. However, you don’t see this type of ad in mainstream publications.  So, when a person running for president of the US is clueless about Celiac Disease and does not know that the GF Diet is the only Rx for it..that tells me our message is not being heard by the general public.

On the contrary; if Ted Cruz made a remark like that about diabetics and pledged not to provide insulin or a low carbohydrate MRE’s for diabetics in the military and did not know what diabetes was; we would all say he is clueless and not fit to run for president being so un-informed! The world knows about diabetes. The world and the mainstream media don’t know about Celiac Disease or the seriousness of it because our message is not being heard!  Isn’t that amazing when there are just as many people with Celiac Disease! (not to mention Gluten Sensitivity and Wheat Allergies)

How Do We Get the Attention Needed for Celiac and Food Allergies?

We can whine and complain about not being respected but that does us no good.  What we need to do is demand that our support associations spend some of our donations on a media campaign to get the word out into the mainstream. If you flip through a gluten free magazine or food allergy magazine you see ads for associations.  I would love to see those ads in Time Magazine, People Magazine or in major newspapers. They would just need to gear the ad towards the seriousness and symptoms, thus creating awareness.  By putting the advertising money into mainstream news media; the public will be educated about the seriousness of our plight. It will raise awareness and diagnosis rates! (The Autism community has done a great job about getting their message heard). Even my local Quest Diagnostics advertises symptoms of Celiac Disease and the blood test for it in a big poster in their waiting room.

Our dining out problems won’t be solved until there is a ODC Cafe, Deli, Bakery in every major city or if we change our labeling laws, manufacturing regulation and educate the public about Celiac & Allergens..

Beaver and Wally

“Gee, Wally, I wonder which one will happen first?

“Ah, come on Beaver, I am thinking more ODC’s!”

Without comprehensive changes in all four areas, it is useless. Example: the voluntary GF Labeling Law is not currently enforced because it is voluntary without oversight. Hence; General Mills recalled 1.8 million boxes of not really GF Cheerios.  Mmmmm.

-The general public must be educated about the seriousness of Celiac/Food Allergies.

-We must have stricter labeling; mandatory gluten disclosure and stricter food production laws in order to ensure safe food.

In the US, we united around the task of sending a man to the moon (my uncle was using a “slide rule”, before computers, to do the math in order to make it happen). Somehow, 50+ years later, we can’t unite around educating the general public or passing laws to serve safe food to those with celiac or food allergies.  I hear horror stories from customers who tell me about people saying “nobody had food allergies when I was growing up, they are just made up” or, “a little bit won’t hurt you”.  As I have said before, we can send a man to the moon but we can’t safely feed our people and that is just stupid!

How do we change this?  So, yesterday, when Capt Ben and I were catching up and discussing Ted Cruz’s comments we both agreed that the mainstream does not recognize Celiac Disease as the reason for the GF Diet. We can whine among ourselves or we can ask our associations to put some of our donations towards  a mainstream media campaign and get the word out to the general public!   With Celiac Diease Awareness Month coming up in May, Ben was kind enough to donate 10 books for me to give away for this blog post.

Here is how you win a copy:

Send me your creative suggestions on ways to get the word out and fix the 4 big problems:

  1. How can our associations get the word out to the general public about the seriousness of Celiac Disease and Food Allergies?
  2. What can each of us do to personally further our own cause by spreading awareness?

The 10 best suggestions will get a free copy of Gluten Free in Afghanistan! Email me at onedishcuisine@yahoo.com by Tuesday 4/12/16. Make sure you include your name and a way to contact you if 1 or more of your suggestions wins! (I will post the top suggestions in the next blog post)

Thanks Capt B. Donald Andrasik for your service to our country (a country who is unwilling to serve you a safe meal while you are serving us by defending our freedom)!  Gluten Free in Afghanistan is a great read and it should comfort you to know that Ben survived two tours in Afghanistan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Mills Cheerios Recall, 1.8 Million Boxes!

-10/05/15: General Mills recalls 1.8 Million Boxes of Cheerios produced over a 17 day period. This blog post will give you the lot numbers and information about how General Mills was testing their product.  Over the past two weeks, I  warned you about contamination in GF Cheerios.  Then I was accused of spreading a “hate campaign” against General Mills and their Gluten Free Cheerios. Now, it appears that General Mills is an active participant;  voluntarily spreading their own “hate themselves campaign” with a very real and very scary recall of their NOT GF CHEERIOS!

Gluten Free Watchdog updated their information again today. I encourage everyone to throw out their Cheerios if they bought them. (I am sure you will be horrified after reading the information below.)

-To the Gluten Free Watchdog Community:

This afternoon General Mills announced a recall of certain lots of regular Yellow Box and Honey Nut Cheerios. According to the press release the lots impacted were produced at the facility in Lodi, California during a four-day period for Yellow Box and thirteen-day period for Honey Nut. If you have boxes of Cheerios in your pantry please check the Better if Used By Date for the following:

Honey Nut Cheerios Honey Nut Cheerios Honey Nut Cheerios  Yellow Box Cheerios
12JUL2016LD
13JUL2016LD
14JUL2016LD
15JUL2016LD
16JUL2016LD
17JUL2016LD
18JUL2016LD
20JUL2016LD
21JUL2016LD
22JUL2016LD
23JUL2016LD
24JUL2016LD
25JUL2016LD
14JUL2016LD
15JUL2016LD
16JUL2016LD
17JUL2016LD

According to General Mills, this recall is due to wheat flour being accidentally introduced into the oat flour. However, if the testing on final product Cheerios is as good as General Mills thinks it is then these lots of Cheerios never would have left the plant and made it to market.

My very strong recommendation at this time is to avoid Cheerios until General Mills improves their testing methodology and protocol.

Just a reminder of how General Mills tests Cheerios for gluten contamination:

General Mills pulls 12 to 18 boxes during a 24 hour production cycle, grinds the contents of each box, takes a sample from the contents of each box, mixes all the samples together and regrinds, tests 12 sub-samples, and averages the results to provide a lot mean.

When I visited General Mills I was shown extraction values for some of the lots of yellow box Cheerios produced during the gluten-free validation phase (these Cheerios did NOT go into boxes labeled gluten-free). One extraction from one of the lots was above 90 parts per million of gluten. Because the other extraction values were so low, the lot mean was somewhere in the range of 10 to 13 ppm gluten. As a result this lot was viewed as “good to go.”

My recommendation to General Mills in person and online has been and continues to be the following:

In the opinion of Gluten Free Watchdog, if test results on a composite sample of 12 to 18 boxes of Cheerios include any values at or above 20 ppm of gluten, General Mills should explore the reason for these findings via testing of the individual boxes of Cheerios used in the composite. A result at or above 20 ppm should not be discounted as simply a random hot spot (e.g., due to an errant small fleck of barley) just because the lot mean is below 20 ppm of gluten.

And now I add the following:  General Mills …

If you had investigated high test results from your composite sample testing versus blaming these results on errant barley flakes this never would have happened.

If you had taken consumer reports of illness seriously from the beginning maybe this situation would have been detected sooner, preventing so many from getting sick.

If you had not been so darn sure of yourselves maybe you would have listened to those who were trying to help prevent this from happening.

Gluten Free Watchdog will be testing eight boxes of Cheerios involved in the recall to determine the gluten level in these products.

I agree with GF Watchdog and I think the bigger problem is the lack of Federal Regulation, because anyone can put a GF label on a product, but the FDA does not require testing, nor do they oversee those making GF claims on their products. Scroll down to read my two previous blog posts to get the history on this saga and who  accused me (Maureen)gluten-free-cheerios-safe-or-not-fb of spreading a “hate campaign” against GF Cheerios.

Kessler Apologizes for “Venting” About GF Cheerios

The day after; I posted her comments on my blog, I got the following email from Phyllis Kessler, President of the South Florida Celiac Support Group. You won’t believe why she is so upset about me and Gluten Dude stating that GF Cheerios are not safe. The conflict of interest is glaring!
“Maureen …..it was not an attack and I’m sorry if you took it that way. My apologies. I guess I just needed to vent about all of the e-mails that I’m getting bashing General Mills. A dear friend of mine worked on this project and is being thrown under the bus …..as I told you, I am Gluten Free because I have Celiac Disease and have had zero reaction to eating Cheerios. In the past I could NEVER eat oats…even the ones that were certified GF …I decided to give it another shot and try Cheerios and had no reaction…no clue why. So, again, I apologize if you felt like I was attacking you….Phyllis”
I emailed her back and thanked her for her apology; urging her to read the Gluten Free Watchdog Report about the cleaning process and testing processes that General Mills is using. It is clear that she is more concerned about her “dear friend” than she is her fellow Celiacs.
*for previous posts, you can scroll down to see last weeks email I got. Or see my blog posts under Celiac Disease and GF Cheerios.
GF Cheerios