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Angry Parent Letter – What do you think?



Yesterday I received a letter that was signed “Angry Parent”.   The letter is below and as a parent, consumer and gluten free advocate, it brings many questions to mind, especially, why can’t we come up with some standards for the phrase ‘gluten free’ and have companies held to the law if they don’t abide by them.

As many of you know, I think very highly of the GFCO, the Gluten Free Certification Organization.  I understand how they work and I completely trust a company that is certified by the GFCO (they use the GF in a circle on packaging).

Read the letter below and let me know what you think in the comments section.  I am rather appalled at POST and what they have done.  But I also don’t know all the facts.

Are Celiacs Just a Number to Food Giants? Is This Deception In Advertising?

POST Cereals are Self-Certified Gluten-Free

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The news on Dec. 22 was exciting – POST had “Certified as Gluten Free” their Fruit and Cocoa Pebble cereals, according to a recent announcement by POST FOODS. The press release states, “In response to increased concerns over celiac disease and products containing wheat gluten, the brand went through a rigorous process to achieve Gluten Free status on both Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles products.”
This is great! My son is going to be excited to have Pebbles cereal. I though congratulations were in order for the certifying agency, but something was not right. When I congratulated the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, I was told they did not work with POST. In fact, I could not find out who had certified POST cereals. I am part of a group for celiac children and we wanted to thank the organization made this happen. So we wrote to POST to ask and thank them for certifying their products and to ask who they were working with on gluten free certification.

Jennifer Brain-Mennes, Director of Media and Public Relations for POST made the following reply: “Post followed a gluten free validation procedure that included certification from all ingredient suppliers, outside laboratory testing of all ingredients, testing the production line, and outside laboratory testing of the finished product.  In addition, Post has instituted process controls to ensure there is no cross-contact with gluten containing products.  We do not have third party verification symbols on the product boxes.”

As a parent of a sensitive celiac child, I am very careful about the products I give him. I trust products that have third party gluten-free certification because I know those products have to meet stricter standards than is offered by the FDA. Because the FDA has no ruling in place, this is more important to me than ever.  Once in a while, a special treat of a cereal like Pebbles would be nice to give my son. I was upset when I saw this response from POST. I feel cheated by a cereal giant. The same thing happened when Betty Crocker launched their gluten-free mixes. It was very clear that General Mills, their parent company, knew the market potential and their press releases made it sound like they cared more about the money they would make and not about my family or me. Now POST has joined in, only POST must have also seen reports that celiacs trust gluten-free certification and used those words in their advertising.  I was excited about giving my son Fruity Pebbles, but now I think am not so sure. I was convinced POST was thinking about the celiac children until I saw the response from Ms. Brain-Mennes. Now I feel duped and I don’t trust them. POST tried to gain my trust by feeding me the words I want to hear “certified as gluten-free”.  Our little group of parents was also confused by this. We heard another parent got a similar letter in response to the certified Pebbles. He shared the letter he wrote and the response he got from POST.
Jennifer,
Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
While I deeply appreciate these steps to make sure that your cereals are gluten free, your use of the word certification is confusing and misleading to consumers with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease.

Certification is interpreted by consumers as an indication that an independent third party has reviewed the facility, production procedures and ingredients. You wouldn’t write that a product is certified organic if you didn’t have independent certification. The gluten free certification procedures and standards from an independent group like The Gluten Free Certification Organization run by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America is clearly detailed on their web site.   http://www.gfco.org

Although your use of the word certification in your press release should be corrected and withdrawn, I would encourage Post to consider another path – adopting independent certification. To give you an indication of consumers of gluten free products view of independently certified products vs. manufacturers’ own gluten free claims, I have copied some recent comments from the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America Facebook page. Gluten free consumers are very savvy shopper who spend many hours every week reading labels and calling food companies to ensure that they are avoiding gluten. As you can see, they recognize and deeply appreciate the value of independent certification.  [Gluten Intolerance Group Face Book quotes inserted].

Thanks again for your response. (Eric, NY)

POST RESPONSE:
Ms Brains- Mennes’ response: “Post stands by its statement and had implemented rigorous procedures and testing to insure our Pebbles products are gluten free.  Thank you for your inquiry, we value our consumer feedback.”

Clearly POST knows celiacs trust the words “Certified Gluten Free”. Even though they have implemented the processes that should keep their products safe, they have not told me what their testing standard is. And since the FDA has no definition I don’t know if I can trust this product anymore than I can trust others that are jumping at the chance to add gluten-free to their label and make a buck off me and my child. Gluten Free is everywhere and continues to grow. I have heard that when the big companies are labeling gluten-free, then the price of gluten-free food will come down. How POST is going about advertising the Pebbles as gluten free makes me angry. They are lining their pockets at the expense of my trust and my child’s health. For me this announcement by POST is bends the truth a lot and is deceptive advertising. I don’t think I we should support products or companies that use this type of misleading advertising. I wonder if the Federal Trade Commission would agree this is not truth in advertising and is misleading advertising.

Angry Parent in NY

salty fig partner 23

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5 Responses to “Angry Parent Letter – What do you think?”

  1. Shelly says:

    I totally understand how she feels. I am in the Midwest, and it is even harder to get GF foods for my daughter. It is very frustrating and I get so upset with companies as well. I highly agree that there should be more standards and monitoring of GF foods.

    Just because it says GF on the package, we all know that it doesn’t necessarily mean it is GF.

    These companies should see how our children react with terrible cramping, etc when Gluten has enetered there system. Maybe if they would experience the pain and discomfort that my daughter has, they would think a little differently.

    In closing, I am very reluctant to buy anything form GM, Post, Betty Crocker, etc. I do not trust that they are 100% GF and processed in a 100% GF facility.

    Something needs to be done!!!!!!

  2. STACEY says:

    After six years of pain,embrassement, and horrible testing I am glad to be able to eat again. If you go out to a restaurant and they tell you it Gluten Free you have no idea what goes on in the kitchen. But they are doing there best in trying.
    But I am an adult so if something doesn’t make me feel good I know not to eat it again. Hopefully the more common the big companies get in making it the more knowledgeable they will try to be. We will keep our fingers crossed that some day us with severe sensitivities will be able to eat with not worries.

  3. Lorine Wilson says:

    Hi Jen:

    I am Canadian. It should also be noted that the products of companies likePost, General Mills and Betty Crocker which are produced for Canadian use are NOT gluten free!

    The Canadian government is in the process of redefining our labelling laws. It has taken them over 2½ years to this point as they are considering any number of allergens…..gluten being one of them..

    It should also be noted that General Mills in Canada does not manufacture or sell Chex cereals. For these gluten free cereals, we have to cross the U.S.-Canada border to purchase them!

    A Canadian Celiac
    Lorine

  4. A GF mom too says:

    I personally think the mom is over-reacting. Companies use words such as “certified” as a marketing tool (and not just related to GF food). They do it all the time. Do you know there is no standard for the word “lite”. It could mean “lite color” and have nothing to do with calorie or fat content. I think the fact that Post is making such an effort to try and reach out to a new market is great. Finding suppliers and distributors willing to “certify” that there ingredients are GF and there is no cross contamination was not required but they made a dedicated effort to do so. My brother works in the restaurant industry and it took his company 18 months!!! to find another chicken supplier that was willing to make the guarantee that they would make tine chicken GF. Yet again, this was not required by the restaurant company but they took the time and a lot of money to do so that people with celiac could continue to eat at the restaurant. Finally, I would have to question if this mom ever eats out with her child. Because although restaurants say they have a GF menu there is no “certification” that it is being cooked correctly. Picking on Post seems a bit close minded to me. They are trying their best and their efforts should be applauded instead of criticized. How are we ever going to get other companies to offer GF options if the ones that do are getting slammed???

  5. Charlotte says:

    Eating GF is expensive and those “giants” are smelling the big bucks. We need laws to regulate the terms so we can be safe and rely on the labels. Another term that I hate has shown up on the Walmart brands. “A naturally gluten free food.” It tells the consumer nothing about processing or cross ontamination issues and can lull them into a sense of security – when there is no assurance to be found in it. We can’t trust the companies to regulate and certify themselves out of any sense of altruism. Money is their motivation.

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