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
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.
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)
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