Today's topic "Labels" is probably more frustrating then any area of dealing with "Gluten-Free." By labels, I'm talking about the information found on all the products you buy at the grocery store. The label lists all the ingredients and may tell you it is "Gluten-Free" or that it contains wheat.
Some of the first questions that come to mind are: What am I looking for? What are the laws about label information? Why don't they say "Gluten-Free" on the label if there is no gluten in the product? Why don't stores mark all GF products? Why don't they put all GF products in one area?
These are just a few of the questions you'll start wondering about as you shop for GF products. I don't have all the answers either.
Let me first say, if you are one who needs to be GF or knows someone who does, ask the dietitian. Most chain grocery stores now have full-time dietitians at their stores. They will be your best resource at the store in helping make your shopping experience less depressing or frustrating.
I'm going to address a Midwest chain called Hy-Vee because I'm familiar with them. I sell and/or have sold my cookbook in a number of their stores. I think they are in about 8 states. Since finding out about my granddaughter's need to be GF, I've talked to a couple of their dietitians. The stores in my town are starting to mark all GF products in the stores with a GF stamp on the shelf label of the product. All of the Hy-Vee stores are doing something along these lines too. I'm sure other chains have something they are doing too. So check out the grocery stores in your area and find which one best fits your needs.
Now what am I looking for on a product label? The first thing is to see if the label states "Gluten-Free" anywhere on it. That's the easy one. For a product to state this on the package, it has to be certified by someone. That is usually the "Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)" and you can find them at www.gfco.org.
Next we're looking for any mention in the allergy area, usually just below the ingredients list, for the word "Wheat." You will find it among other words like egg, soy, nuts and milk. Remember that "Barley" and "Rye" are not required to be mentioned here.
Now it's time to actually look at the ingredients list. It may list "Wheat," "Barley" or "Rye" as one of the ingredients. That's the easy label because it immediately identifies those 3 ingredients that you need to avoid.
The problem comes when a label states ingredients such as colors, flavors or spice blends. If they contain "Wheat" then it is mentioned in the allergy section. But they may still contain "Gluten" from another source that was not required to be mentioned. I'm getting a little long today so will continue with these on the next "Gluten-Free Series" in 4 weeks.
If you have looked over the package and label and are still not sure if the product is safe to eat, what do you do? Look for the contact information on the label. Companies put a phone number, email address or both on the package. Use this to contact them and ask about their products in question. Many will be able to tell you the answers you seek.
This week's GF recipes include "Loaded Cauliflower Bake" and "Brazilian Cheese Rolls" for you trying. "Happy Cooking" until next week and please share this information with family and friends.