Customer Service Lines Provide Inconsistent Info to Celiacs

By Sue Newell
Canadian Celiac Association

Many people tell me that even though the ingredient list seems safe, they call the company anyway. Sometimes they ask if the product is produced on dedicated lines, sometimes they ask if there is gluten in the product or in the plant.

They get a variety of answers; the most common seems to be “we don’t add gluten but cannot guarantee what our suppliers do”, and this is frequently interpreted as “there is gluten in that product”, which isn’t what it means at all.

PC Sprinkle Party Cake In the most interesting cases you get a completely wrong answer. Annie of Ottawa shared her experience on Facebook. She called President’s Choice about PC Sprinkle Party Cake Ice Cream and was told that there were pieces of cake in the ice cream. She was puzzled about the answer because the ingredient list did not contain any of the ingredients needed for cake (eggs and flour at a minimum). She called back later to get another service agent and got the same answer – there are pieces of pound cake in the ice cream.

Either this was a monumental labeling failure with a missing priority allergens (egg) as well as gluten sources OR the customer service message was completely wrong. Annie contacted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and asked for an investigation.

After a few days, CFIA let her know that there were NO traces of gluten in the product. It turns out that the formula for this product just changed. Customer service had the old message, not the new one. Equally important, they had no idea that there was a change in the product.

Unfortunately, we have few ways of knowing whether the answers we get from a customer service agent are correct or not. I suspect that the intent of many of the messages to get us to hang up and not eat the product, so as to not cost the company any more money. Large companies have departments responsible for making sure their products met various government regulations, but updating customer service is usually not part of their responsibility. When that falls on a busy product manager, it isn’t always a high priority.

cfia logoThe idea of “we cannot guarantee that our incoming ingredients are not contaminated” is really a “duh” statement. The key word in the sentence is “guarantee”. The idea many gluten-free consumers take away is “it is contaminated”. Unfortunately, they then tend to share the information with others, continuing to spread the inaccurate conclusions.

If a company is able to make a gluten-free claim, it will be on the package. Expecting a customer service agent to go off-script and make a claim with legal ramifications is not realistic and it isn’t really a good use of your time or the company’s time.

Maybe it is time to either trust ingredient lists or to give up on processed food. It will definitely reduce your stress levels.

Recall: Schneider’s All Beef Bologna – Undeclared Wheat

Courtesy CFIA

Schneider’s brand All Beef Bologna recalled due to undeclared milk and wheat

Schneiders All Beef BolognaAdvisory date: May 29, 2015
Reason for advisory: Allergen – Milk, Allergen – Wheat
Hazard classification: Class 2
Company / Firm: Maple Leaf Foods
Distribution: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan
Extent of the distribution: Retail
Reference number: 9862


Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC
Schneider’s All Beef Bologna 175 g 2015 JN 15 0 62000 31690 1

Oats can now make gluten-free claim in Canada

By Sue Newell, CCA

Oat flakes on white background

Health Canada announced regulatory changes that will allow a gluten-free claim for specially produced or processed oats that are free from wheat, rye, barley, or their hybridized strains, and for foods containing these oats. Details about these changes, an updated position paper and other important information can be found on Health Canada’s Website.

The Canadian Celiac Association supports this decision to allow gluten-free claims for specially produced gluten-free oats and products containing such oats. The Canadian Celiac Association Professional Advisory Council Position Statement on Consumption of Oats by Individuals with Celiac Disease is available on

Health Canada’s Marketing Authorization permits the gluten-free claim for oats if they meet the following criteria:

  1. The food contains no oats other than specially produced “gluten-free oats”;
  2. The finished product does not contain greater than 20 ppm of gluten from wheat, rye, barley or their hybridized strains;
  3. The food contains no intentionally added gluten from wheat, rye, barley, or their hybridized strains; and
  4. The “gluten-free oats” are clearly identified as such in all cases where ‘oats’ are referenced, including in the list of ingredients.

Manufacturers who want to make a gluten-free claim on pure oats or products made with pure oats are responsible for ensuring those oats meet the criteria outlined in the Marketing Authorization. If a product is marketed as gluten-free and contains oats that do not meet the criteria, it will be subject to enforcement actions by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Forever Health brand Imitation Ham recalled due to undeclared Wheat

imitation-hamCourtesy CFIA

Recall date: November 8, 2013
Reason for recall: Allergen – Wheat
Hazard classification: Class 1
Company / Firm: Happy Veggie World
Distribution: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec
Extent of the distribution: Retail

Ottawa, November 8, 2013 – Happy Veggie World is recalling Forever Health brand Imitation Ham products from the marketplace because they contain wheat which is not declared on the label.  People with an allergy to wheat should not consume the recalled products described below.

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC
Forever Health Imitation Ham 600 g All codes 4 712263 061099
Forever Health Vegan Ham (Imitation Meat) kg All codes 4 712263 060955

Undeclared wheat in Piller’s pepperoni

Courtesy CFIA

pillers pepperoniOTTAWA, October 19, 2012 – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Piller’s Fine Foods are warning people with allergies to wheat and / or sensitivity to gluten not to serve or consume Piller’s brand Sub Pac Classic and Sliced Pepperoni products described below. The affected products contain wheat which is not declared on the label.

The following Piller’s brand luncheon meat products are affected by this alert.

Product Name Size UPC Best Before Date
Pepperoni Sliced 6 x 500 g 0 69401 04605 5 2012 NO01
2012 NO20
2012 NO27
2012 DE03
2012 DE05
2012 DE13
Sub Pac Classic $5 (Pepperoni, Luncheon Meat, Smoked Ham) 400 g 0 69401 03613 1 2012 OC18
2012 NO19
2012 NO20
2012 NO27
2012 DE05
Sub Pac Classic (Pepperoni, Luncheon Meat, Smoked Ham) 250 g 0 78427 03605 6 2012 SE11
2012 SE20
2012 SE26
2012 OC11
2012 OC25
2012 NO01
2012 NO12
2012 NO20
2012 NO23
2012 NO27
2012 DE07

pillers pepperoni recall

These products were distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. However, they may have been distributed in other provinces.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

Consumption of these products may cause a serious or life-threatening reaction in persons with allergies to wheat. Also, these products represent a health risk to gluten sensitive individuals / Celiac sufferers.

Piller’s Fine Foods, Waterloo, ON is voluntarily recalling the affected products from the marketplace. The CFIA is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.

For more information, consumers and industry can call one of the following numbers:

Piller’s Fine Foods at 1-800-265-2628, weekdays between 8:30 am – 5:00 pm or
Voice mail may be left at 519-743-1412 ext. 351;

CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 / TTY 1-800-465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday).