Should I call the company?

Courtesy national newsletter

gluten cross-contamination When the CCA published instructions on how to read an ingredient list now that the new labelling regulations have come into effect, we received a few messages from people who wanted to know why we did not include instructions to call the company to ask about possible contact with gluten during manufacturing or packaging. Some members were very upset that our instructions did not include that step.

The CCA does not advocate calling manufacturers to inquire about possible contact with gluten during manufacturing, except for flour products. In the last two years we have published a few articles describing concerns about possible gluten contamination of grains that are naturally gluten free during the milling process or gluten contamination of baked goods made in bakeries that also baked with wheat flour.

What about other products? Should you call the manufacturer about ketchup? Sausages? Chocolate bars? Lunch meat? Potato chips? Soup? Is gluten contamination during manufacturing a common problem? If you call a manufacturer, will you get useful information about the risks? Is it possible to make gluten-free products on shared equipment or in plants that use wheat products? Will the companies give you the information you need to make that decision? What information do you need to make the decision? Do the new labelling regulations change anything?

There are lots of questions to ask, but are there answers to these questions? This article begins an ongoing series trying to find the answers you need and will be published for members only in our regular email out.

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Cross-contamination in restaurants still a major issue

News Release – AllergyEats.com

“Gluten-free” is a growing trend, with an increasing number of restaurants now offering gluten-free menu options, but some establishments haven’t been properly trained around gluten intolerance and food allergies. As a result, they’re serving “gluten-free” meals that actually contain gluten, and guests are getting sick from these mistakes. Paul Antico, founder of U.S. based AllergyEats  reminds people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance and other food allergies to always be vigilant when dining out.

Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. For people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, consuming even small quantities of gluten can cause severe abdominal distress, in some cases resulting in hospitalization.

“The primary reason for restaurants’ errors is the lack of knowledge and understanding around cross-contamination. Cross-contamination occurs when a meal that’s supposed to be gluten-free comes in contact with gluten. For instance, if a chef cooks a piece of fish in a pan that previously held breadcrumbs, that fish has been cross-contaminated with gluten and isn’t safe for a celiac or gluten-intolerant diner to eat,” Antico explained.

“Just because a restaurant offers gluten-free menu options doesn’t mean you’ll get a gluten-free meal. There are a growing number of news stories and online chatter about people with severe gluten intolerances who have gotten sick after consuming meals that were supposed to be gluten-free. Recently, at least four major restaurant chains — and many independent restaurants — have been spotlighted for serving gluten-free meals that have contained gluten,” said Antico.

“The gluten-free label is giving guests — and restaurant staff — a false sense of security. People with food allergies or intolerances need to ask questions every time they dine out, always double-checking ingredient lists and determining the risks of cross-contamination,” Antico explained.

“I’ve heard so many similar stories recently. People go in and order the gluten-free options but don’t discuss the food preparation policies, the possibility of cross-contamination or the exact ingredient lists with the restaurant staff, and they become horribly sick because of errors at restaurants. Guests with gluten-intolerance and food allergies need to be aware, ask questions and do their research,” Antico said. “The increasing number of mistakes is alarming and reinforces the importance of constant vigilance within the gluten-intolerance and food allergy communities.”

Some restaurants post disclosures saying they won’t guarantee gluten-free meals because of the possibility of cross-contamination. Applebee’s, for instance, has posted on their website’s allergy information page, “Please be aware that during normal kitchen operations involving shared cooking and preparation areas, including common fryer oil, the possibility exists for food items to come in contact with other food products. Due to these circumstances, we are unable to guarantee that any menu item can be completely free of allergens.”

Antico urges the restaurant industry to increase their knowledge and training around gluten intolerance and food allergy issues, ensuring that safety protocols are always followed. Restaurants should be careful not to cross-contaminate, always know exactly what ingredients are in every meal — including sauces, marinades and breading — and be willing to substitute appropriately for their gluten-intolerant or food-allergic guests.

“Certain restaurants really understand and accommodate diners with celiac disease, gluten intolerance and food allergies and others do not. Restaurants like PF Chang’s, Legal Sea Foods and Outback Steakhouse have great gluten-free options and are happy to accommodate guests with special dietary restrictions. Alternatively, a growing number of gluten-intolerant diners have had negative experiences at other chain and independent restaurants, which won’t guarantee gluten-free meals, despite sharing gluten-free menus or options on their websites. Therefore, it’s no surprise that these establishments receive consistently poor AllergyEats allergy-friendliness ratings,” Antico continued.

Cloth bags pose cross-contamination threat

by Health Canada

Health Canada is reminding Canadians to take steps to prevent cross-contamination of foods when shopping with reusable grocery bags and bins.

As an environmental choice, many Canadians are now shopping with reusable bins, plastic bags and cloth bags to reduce the amount of plastic they are using. Health Canada supports the proper use of these products, but it is important that Canadians use them safely to prevent cross-contamination of food with bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

Because these bags and plastic bins are reused frequently, they can pick up bacteria from the foods they carry, or from their environment (the ground, the back of your car or the items stored in them between grocery trips).

The following steps can help you prevent cross-contamination:

  • When using cloth bags, make sure to wash them frequently, especially after carrying fresh produce, meat, poultry or fish. Reusable grocery bags may not all be machine washable. If you are using this type of grocery bag, you should make sure to wash them by hand frequently with hot soapy water. Plastic bins should be washed using hot soapy water on a regular basis as well. It is also important that you dry your grocery bags and bins after washing.
  • Put your fresh or frozen raw meat, poultry and fish in separate bins or bags from fresh produce and other ready-to-eat foods.
  • Putting your fresh or frozen raw meat, poultry or fish in plastic bags (the clear bags found in the produce and some meat sections work well) will help prevent the juices from leaking out and contaminating your reusable containers and other foods. Fresh produce should also always be put in plastic bags to help protect them from contamination.
  • If you are using your grocery bags or bins to store or transport non-food items, they should be thoroughly washed before using them for groceries.

It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

For more information on reusable grocery bags and bins and other food safety tips, please visit:

Government of Canada’s Reusable Grocery Bags and Bins Tips

Video: Reusable Grocery Bags and Bins

Next link will take you to another Web site Government of Canada’s Food Safety Portal

Next link will take you to another Web site Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education’s Be Food Safe Canada Campaign

Subway tests gluten-free rolls and brownies

According to Celiac.com, Subway is testing a gluten-free roll and gluten-free brownie in Texas.

How to do they prevent gluten cross-contamination? Apparently the rolls and brownies are prepackaged and individually wrapped. The food server (aka sandwich artist) are mandated to cut the roll with a pre-wrapped knife and only to use it once.

Unlike their regular assembly line process, the same staffer handles the gluten-free order from beginning to end, so only one set of hands will touch the sandwich.

Let’s hope they find a market and and kick the cross-contamination problem.

No word yet on how much the rolls and brownies cost.

We await Jared to weight in on the taste!