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GF Certification – What does it mean to you?

I was in Trader Joe’s last week and was curious what their little “G” symbol actually means on their packaging.  I asked an employee and I have to say, he didn’t know the answer, but Tim was very helpful and said he would check into it.  And he actually did and called me back today.  Kudos Tim!

Just as I suspected, TJ’s uses their mark for gluten free to indicate that a product contains no gluten-containing ingredients.  And according to Tim, the nutritionist at TJ’s headquarters told him that they use good manufacturing practices and will label the package if they are processing other gluten free products in the facility.  They said that they do not currently certify their GF products through any third party testing organization, such as the GFCO.

I am someone that will eat products that are made in non-dedicated facilities if I think I won’t get sick.  I know a lot of you won’t do that and it will be great when new labeling laws come into effect and really nail down what GF actually means.  Just as I was pondering all of this this morning, I received my e-newsletter from Tricia Thompson, RD.  I LOVE her newsletters.  She does all the research for you and then explains things in terms that we commoners can actually understand.  No big medical and technical lingo.

What was Tricia’s topic today?  GF Labeling and Certification.  She breaks down what it might mean in the future to claim a product to be GF and how the CSA and GFCO currently certify GF foods.   I highly recommend reading her article.  Click here to read Tricia’s article.

Comment below about how you feel about the current labeling?  Do you only buy products that are certified GF?  Did you even know that products could be certified to be GF?  Let us know your thoughts on this important issue….

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6 Responses to “GF Certification – What does it mean to you?”

  1. Kit Kellison says:

    Right on, Jen. Great topic.
    It’s pretty tricky to label products in order to protect the most sensitive among us. If we are able to discern 8ppm of gluten in the future, is it really fair to manufacturers who make a great effort to keep their facilities clean and test out at 10 ppm?
    If there is someone who is sensitive at 4ppm she will STILL be left out of the loop. And if she represents only .05%% of celiac disease patients are we comfortable leaving her out in the cold? Isn’t the whole point of this process to protect a minority of people?
    With only one system, we are going to have to draw a line in the sand that leaves some on the other side of being protected. What we don’t have now is the parameters that tell us where the line should be. Do we even know the lowest ppm that is safe for the most sensitive? Are there huge amounts of gluten free products that will be left out of certification just because we’ve drawn that line?
    Maybe the answer is a 3 or 4 tier color-tagged system. There are people who are fine with 1/12 of a piece of bread a day, they can be red. There are people who can have a crumb or two with no reaction or measurable effects, they can eat orange tags, and so on.
    With such a wide spectrum of gluten intolerance, perhaps we should have certification that also falls on a spectrum.

  2. Tara Lukkarinen says:

    I think it is important to also question “is it safe just because you don’t get sick??” I was diagnosed with celiac disease without having any symptoms other than a slightly low Vitamin D level and some mild constipation. No stomach pains, no diarrhea, etc. however I had COMPLETE villous atrophy in the small intestines when they did a biopsy. Without symptoms I do not know what level is “safe” for me without looking inside. So far all of you out there assuming that without symptoms that level of gluten must be safe, I would still wonder what is going on inside and is it REALLY safe?

    • jkcafferty says:

      Great point! I’m not sure about the statistic – but I remember reading somewhere that many celiacs don’t have any noticeable symptoms. Then there is the question of what does gluten intolerance actually do to a person in both the short and long term.

  3. Mary says:

    I have an allergy, not Celiac, so my perspective is a bit different. I was diagnosed when I was 2, in ’84. Back then, the standard line was “allergies don’t exist”. The fact that there is Any sort of gluten-measuring system in place boggles my mind. I also have many other food allergies, so frankly I’m a bit bitter that those just avoiding gluten get to see a little GF instead of having to read the whole label. From where I stand, it would be much more useful to have an ingredient label thoroughly list every tiny thing included within the product, rather than announcing what is Not there. Skip a GF certification and print how many PPM of gluten a product carries. Provide the consumer with the information they need to make an informed decision. Frankly, (as I have multiple allergies) all the grand GFCF statements in the world are meaningless as long as we allow companies to print these words in their ingredient list: “Natural Flavorings”.

    • jkcafferty says:

      Mary – great idea about printing the ppm. I wonder if they can do that? I’m curious how that would work if it is slightly different with each batch. I guess something that states a range of ppm would work. And the natural flavoring label is pathetic. That allowance has got to go. Jen

  4. Alena Mack says:

    I love reading all these comments. From what I understand from talking to people who actually do the certifying (at GFCO), there are two types of tests – qualitative and quantitative. The qualitative tests they use are a pass/fail test, which basically tells if there are 10ppm or more in a product of gluten. It is measured at 10ppm, because that is what they certify to. There are also quantitative tests that measure as low as 5ppm of gluten. This is as low as any test can possibly get right now for an actually number measurement. Qualitative (pass/fail) tests can measure as low as 3ppm. They CANNOT test for no gluten.

    The studies that have been done on a “safe” amount of gluten for celiacs show that most people will not react nor have any small intestine degradation up to 50mg per day (or 100ppm). However, they showed that a few subjects reacted at as little as 10mg per day (or 20ppm). That is how they have come up with the amount that is “safe” for celiacs. The thing to note is that many ingredients, even though they do not naturally contain gluten, can be contaminated with gluten through the processing. It is very very difficult to get something 100% gluten free.

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