Seen the new headlines on labels and gluten? There’s a new study out and it’s worth a blog post, both because it’s important, and easy to misunderstand.
Tricia Thompson of Gluten-Free Watchdog, Trisha Lyon and Amy Jones authored Allergen advisory statements for wheat: do they help US consumers with celiac disease make safe food choices? Yes, this is a small study, but it’s an important conversation to have.
First, allergen advisory statements are those pesky statements you see on the chocolate bars you’ve been lovingly eyeing. You know, those times where the product looks delicious, the ingredients look fine, and then you see the “made on shared facilities” “made in a shared factory” or similar statements seen on packages. Most people see those as warnings of increased risk of gluten contamination, and allergy guidelines recommend removing those products, but according to this study, products with those warning statements were no more likely to contain gluten or wheat than products without.
Those statements have been a long-term irritant from my perspective, because a) they’re confusing and b) they’re voluntary, and people often don’t realize a statement that has that comment may have the exact same amount of risk as packages without. Most people I see are avoiding the “made in a factory” statements and choosing products without those warnings–and that may give a false sense of security.
But (and this is a big deal) you’re still best off with a package marked “gluten-free” and preferably with a gluten-free certification, such as GIG’s or CSA, especially for flour or grain products. That hasn’t changed.
Bottom line: FDA needs to do a better job and actually define those statements–or better yet, require companies to monitor and/or eliminate cross contamination with major allergens. We, collectively, can and should be doing better. So many people’s health is at stake.