How to stay safe while purchasing your food at the grocery store just many be the next $64,000 question. Selecting food that is gluten free is fairly easy, or should be. Let’s face it; most foods are inherently gluten free. The problem is the creativity of food manufacturers to search for and find new and different ways to contaminate perfectly good food that is otherwise free of gluten.
Do you want to know what I think? Frankly, I believe the powers-that-be in the food manufacturing kingdoms really don’t give a freaking, flying hoot in you know where about whether folks get sick. All they care about is the bottom line which is the almighty dollar. Remember what the Bible has to say about the rich man getting into heaven.
In addition to not allowing my sweet husband to shop alone again, I have given a lot of thought plus a considerable amount of research into the how of keeping him completely and totally safe. Based on the fact that allergen warning statements in addition to the “processed in” and the “may contain” statements are strictly voluntary with no regulations and are at the sole [in]discretion of the companies processing the food we purchase in good faith, I have come up with three rules that I do not intend to bend:
Rule 1: KISS everything. This method of approaching the statistical analysis of the data collected for my dissertation was drilled into my head by my stats prof. KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. The second “S” was for me because I tend to have to keep learning the same lessons over and over.
When I apply my three prong approach to buying and preparing gluten free foods, I will focus on simple, single ingredient foods such as meat, fruits and vegetables and to the extent possible in the area where I live, organic or self grown. (We have become backyard farmers during the last couple of years.)
Rule 2: Look for the certified gluten free symbol on products of necessity, such as flours, baking powder, corn meal, pasta, and the list goes on and on. Even if it is not “certified” gluten free, if the manufacturer feels confident enough in their manufacturing controls to state it is gluten free AND it is a company I believe to be reputable, i.e. a
European or Australian company, I am willing to risk the purchase. Yes, these
items cost more, but are worth the every single penny when compared to someone
being totally incapacitated for days and then possibly having to take heavy
duty drugs for an extended period of time.
Rule 3: Carry a cell phone or iPad with you. Even if the product has the words “gluten free” on the label, but does not proudly display certified gluten free symbol, call the number of the company on the package. And, here is the question to ask the customer representative: “What OTHER products are run on the same piece of equipment as [whatever you are considering] and if any contain gluten that are manufactured in the same facility, what controls do you have in place to prevent cross contamination? Remember, just because a food item is naturally gluten free it does not follow that the product on the shelf is gluten free. Many manufacturers use the same equipment for processing and packaging gluten free foods as they use for foods containing gluten. “Gluten Free Ingredients” statements can be quite misleading.
Invest a few bucks in a few gluten free apps and/or books for your iPad. Take a couple of minutes to look up what experiences others have had with the product you are considering. An “ounce of prevention” is worth way more than days of being sick and visiting doctors in this case.
Don’t accept the answer that I got the other day: “Well, that is naturally gluten free.” Yes, a lot of contaminated foods on the market claiming to be gluten free began their life being naturally gluten free, such as dried mango (and other fruits) processed by American Importing Co., Inc. which has informed me in writing that they routinely run gluten containing ingredients on the machines on a random basis. This is only one example. I dare to wager how many companies pull the same trick, making many, many people sick.
A paraphrase of the proverb that says “It takes a village to raise a child” would be to say “It takes the entire gluten free community working together to change the food industry and the culture in which we live.” We need to all work with our elected representatives to put some teeth into the labeling laws and demand enforcement. Someone’s health depends on it. In our case, the someone’s health is my husband’s.