Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gluten Free Labeling

People who live with gluten intolerance or celiac, or are trying to avoid gluten for other health issues, worry most about whether the foods they are eating are processed to assure their safety.

Often foods that are naturally gluten free are processed on equipment that also processes wheat or other gluten containing foods.

For instance buckwheat which is gluten free, if processed in the same mill as wheat, is not gluten free. Many people find this out the hard way, and think they cannot tolerate certain foods only to find that it is not the food itself but how it was processed. Even products that have been labeled gluten free in the past, such as a wild rice I tried, resulted in giving me a negative reaction. On closer examination, the rice was stone ground in a mill that processes wheat and even though the stone grinder was seemingly meticulously cleaned, I still had a reaction.

In a recent survey, 60 % of people on a gluten free diet have experienced similar situations. One woman I talked to recently said she was really tired of getting reactions from products she thought were gluten free. Many of us are extremely sensitive and even a little can make us feel ill. This is difficult as sometimes you rack your brains trying to figure out where it was that you got glutened, what did you do that you have to now not do.

Most of us are habitual label readers and many of us actually go to company websites to find out more about the status of their gluten free manufacturing processes. Thankfully there are now several gluten free networks available that those who are gluten intolerant can join and ask questions or share food choices with. Although gluten syndrome or celiac disease starts a person down a gluten free diet path, there are friends who have done it all and are willing to share their recommendations.

Ultimately it is a trial and error process as even among the gluten avoiders, there are varying degrees of foods they can tolerate. Some whose systems have not been overly damaged, or those who have been on a gluten free diet for some time can eat a large variety of gluten free grains, bean flours, nuts and so on. Some who have more damage find that they can be on a long road to recovery. It can take from 6 months to 2 years or more to heal the gut. Those new to the diet need to eat simple whole foods as their first mainstay then after about 3 weeks to two months can broaden their horizons to some processed gluten free foods and baked goods.

The good news is that the food industry now realizes that the gluten free diet market is rather large and well informed. New dedicated gluten free manufacturing facilities are being set up, so there is hope.

Astoria Mills Enriched Breads and Baking mixes are manufactured in a dedicated gluten free facility. This means that all ingredients must be sourced from dedicated gluten free facilities as well which is not always an easy task. We are working on bringing an ancient grain blend to market in the near future, as soon as we can locate all of the ingredients from gluten free growers and processing facilities. We eat the same foods we sell !

Astoria Mills thanks all those who have been spreading the word about us. After having launched in November 2009, we sold out of our original run in less than two months. With no fancy ads and marketing other than our website, we are really grateful for the response.

So reading labels, even for gluten free specified foods, is still a big part of all of us on a gluten free diet, but we can take comfort in the fact that it will get easier in the future.

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