Yesterday we (hubby and I) helped mom clean out her kitchen. The goal was to make it clear what was gluten free and what wasn’t. Hubby did most of the hard work, as I didn’t want to be too close to the open flour and worried of cross contamination – plus, he is just really good at sorting through stuff and separating out stuff to be kept and stuff to be tossed (at least when it isn’t our stuff – it is a lot easier when someone who isn’t attached to the stuff helps with the sorting process).
I want to note that my mom lives in Canada. Food manufacturers are different in Canada and the US – so most of the links in this post will apply to those living in Canada.
My job was to look things up and find out if they were gluten free or not. There were some real surprises in the process. Chicken stock is a real problem. Barley is often used in the making the stock. The real surprise to me was dates. I love dates. I had no idea that wheat flour was often used as an adjuvant filler when hand pollenating dates.
Fruit set resulting from the use of mechanical pollination is usually poorer than that following hand pollination, but fruit quality and yields are found to be equal as a result of decreased thinning of the mechanically pollinated inflorescences. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that mechanical pollination requires approximately 2 or 3 times more pollen than manual pollination. To overcome this problem, date growers are mixing the pollen with adjuvants, also called fillers, such as talc, bleached wheat flour, walnut-hull dust with a ratio of pollen/filler 1:9 or 1:10. (Zaid & de Wet, n.d.).
I did, however, find that those of us in the US can get gluten-free dates from Nuts.com. When I get home I’m going to have to check all the dates I have to see if they contain gluten. I had no idea on this one!
I also got to practice looking things up on the Internet. When presented with a can of something, I search for it using the string “Is gluten free?” or “does contain gluten?”. I found that many of the manufactures of canned goods have websites that list which of their goods are gluten free. Unfortunately, store branded canned goods often did not have websites that indicated whether items were gluten free. Instead, store brands opted to sell their premium “gluten-free” labelled versions of products. At least that seems to be what the website indicated.
I wanted to make a call out to manufacturers, who are making this process a lot easier. Kraft is committed to labelling any ingredient that may contain gluten. The challenge with the announcement is that it is dated 2015. They don’t say when they started (or will start) with the gluten labelling. Whether this was done for altruistic or regularly reasons, I applaud them for making a statement clearly in an announcement that can be easily found by a Google search. In many cases, it was difficult to find what was and was not gluten-free. When given that option, I had to assume it was not safe to eat.
Other useful links to Gluten-free product lists include:
- Clover Leaf – almost all products are gluten free. They list three that are not on the website – http://www.cloverleaf.ca/en/faq
- Hunts – Only select spaghetti sauces are gluten-free (not a surprise). Most of their plain canned tomato products are gluten-free. They have a good list here: http://www.penny.ca/Hunts.htm
- Nabisco (including Alymer brand) has their list of gluten free canned goods here: http://www.penny.ca/Nabisco.htm
- Unico – all canned beans are gluten-free. A lot of there stuff is listed generically here (that is, specific beans are not listed because all bean products are gluten free): http://www.penny.ca/Unico.htm
- Campbell soup’s are not surprising a challenge as many of the different soups contain noodles and thickeners. They provide a good list of what is gluten-free here: http://www.campbellsoup.ca/en-ca/gluten-free-products.pdf
- Hershey’s (Canada and US gluten free lists). The challenge with Hershey’s is that they have some very similar products so it is unclear which are gluten fre and which are not. You need to look carefully or choose a different brand of chocolate chips which are clearly labelled as gluten-free. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/our-ingredients/nutrition-information/special-dietary-needs/gluten-Free-products.aspx
When I have a product that I like and it is unclear (e.g. Better than Bouillon), I use twitter to ask the manufacturer directly. Unfortunately, a bunch of their products do contain gluten (soup bases are always a challenge). Using twitter we can usually get an answer within an hour or two. The other option is to phone. I’ll have to give that a try too.
The process isn’t useful when you are actually at the grocery store, as it takes too long. It is useful when you have favourite products or a new product comes out that you want to try and you want to see if it is OK to eat. It will be nice when labelling gets a little better, and gluten is clearly marked on all products! Personally, I like the practice that is done in the UK where allergens are listed in bold, making it a lot easier to identify safe foods.