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Warning: Gluten-Free

Member Forum >> Food and Diet >> Warning: Gluten-Free

Bob Niland

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Posted: 12/7/2016 1:46:06 PM
Edited: 12/7/2021 3:22:53 PM (4)

Warning: Gluten-Free

Edition: 2021-09-19

On the WBB topic Fruity Logic (UIC mirror), describing how the almost entirely horrific circa 2013 Post Fruity Pebbles began sporting a “Gluten Free” claim, a reader there remarked:
Foods such as this need to be accompanied by a ‘warning label’ ”

They are.
The key warning label says:
Gluten Free
The more prominent the GF, the more suspicious you need to be.

  • Foods you want to eat will, of course, be GF. Those, however, usually have a more discrete GF notation.
  • But the sad state of the market today is that 97% of the GF products are not foods you want to eat.

The majority of today’s GFs fall into one of two categories:

  • They contain disqualifying other ingredients, usually high glycemic carbs based on refined starches from grains that aren’t gluten-bearing, but still cause sky high blood sugars. Sugars are also all too common. Don’t take my word for it. Read some random NF panels in the GF aisle at your local upscale supermarket.
  • They are products that never contained anything from gluten-bearing grains in the first place, and are being marketed by charlatans trying to cash in on what they see as an uninformed fad. Pure crystalline sucrose (rock candy), for example, is “gluten free”.

#wheatfree: permalink to GF,really? Is it really GF, and is it wheat-free?

As of 2013-08-02, the FDA’s 2007 proposed a 20 ppm standard became official. It was effective 2013-09-02, with a year for producers to come into compliance, and it took some time beyond that to flush inventories at the retail level.

Unless the product package made a claim of a specific threshold, with a reference to a credible lab holding the results, all bets were off until sometime in 2015. As we exited 2016, products on store shelves would have been 20 ppm-compliant, past-expiry or illegal.

Even at 20 ppm, some celiacs and acutely wheat sensitive non-celiacs can react to trace amounts of gluten. This is the other tension in why it took 6 years to set a standard.

Gluten-Free, before or after the standard, doesn’t necessarily mean wheat-free. Wheat dextrin is often presented as GF. Is it free of other wheat toxins? Many GF beers are based on GF barley or GF rye. Are they free of genetic and/or protein issues crossed from wheat? You are the lab rat for these questions.

The FDA rule poses a particular challenge for restaurants. Many today still list “GF” items on the menu, with disclaimers regarding cross-contamination and other factors. Prior to 20 ppm, GF on the menu didn’t mean GF on your plate, and it still may not.

Restaurants can no longer disclaim under the new FDA rule. What does the menu look like in the 20 ppm age? Unless the establishment is entirely gluten-free, and sources only 20 ppm-cert GF ingredients, I don’t see how they can credibly continue to use the phrase “gluten free”.

Some will, alas, just give up any attempt to accommodate this particular food sensitivity. The rest are going to need some new phrase that indicates their best effort to avoid gluten in the recipe and food prep. “Wheat Free” might work. Both the US and the UK allow the phrase “No Gluten Containing Ingredients” (NGCI). Either would assure no particular level of safety. Stay tuned for developments.

Take Quest, for example (which I no longer recommend, for other reasons). Their 2013 products replaced the Gluten Free claim with an NGCI claim. Later products vary, with some asserting GF and some NGCI.

The GF situation is going to remain a problem for some years yet, probably until GF is replaced by LC (Low Carb) as the biggest banner on the box, then by LCHF, or whatever abbreviation comes to denote enlightened ancestral products you’d actually want to eat.

Meanwhile, the more prominent the GF, the more likely it’s a trap, or not even true. And even after 2016, GF might mean 20 ppm gluten, but still assures nothing about other important content, such as net carbs, adverse fats, adverse sweeteners, emulsifiers, preservatives, colorants, flavorants, and field/transport/storage chems.

The formulators and marketers of “GLUTEN FREE!!” products, loaded with junk carbs (and often other unwise ingredients) either have
• no idea what they are doing
   (fooling themselves), or
• they know exactly what they are doing
   (fooling us).
Either explanation suggests avoiding the product. And that’s if the brand is even being honest, which sometimes they are not.

Outside the reach of the FDA, you’ll have to research what rules, if any, apply to GF claims in food packaging and food service. What flag does that cruise ship fly?
Bob Niland [disclosures] [topics] [abbreviations]

Tags: GF,gluten free,NCGS,NGCI