Monday, March 16, 2015

Shame On Better4UFoods: An Expo West 2015 Fail

If you've ever attended a food show as a trade professional or even as a shopper who loves seeking the healthy and sustainable food, beverages and services, you'd assume food allergies and gluten health risks are a top priority! This pizza manufacturer, Better4UFoods, was so clueless that it's now time I share this story of ignorance in the gluten-free and allergen marketplace. Health and safety concerns can no longer be tolerated. 

Better4UFoods Pizza Ruins My Expo West

Unfortunately, my expo west was cut short due to a brand, Better4UFoods, that had no idea what legitimate, safe gluten-free food is all about.  I'm not upset at Expo West, more at myself along with Better4UFoods who has a pizza company that decided to enter the gluten-free market to capitalize on profits of the growing industry. Better4UFoods is a classic example of what not to do as a manufacturer in the gluten-free market because of how they do not comprehend the seriousness of gluten-free lifestyles.  

Are Better4UFoods Amateurs?

I'm asking for your opinion on more of the details. As shown above, Better4UFoods' Expo West booth served regular pizza in an oven while their entire trade show booth backdrop had their gluten-free banner, and had a Gluten Intolerance Group certified gluten-free sign on their table near their pizza samples. Let me ask you, would you expect their pizza on the table to have gluten knowing this?  

Better4UFoods Cross Contamination Fail

On Saturday afternoon at Expo West, Better4UFoods failed the gluten-free test. Their booth had a few people, and the staff behind the booth were talking about their products and options such as Daiya cheeses they source with an interested trade pro. I listened in  as they talked about gluten-free, analyzing their booth and the certified gluten-free sign blatantly at the front of the table.  Although, I was at Expo West since Wednesday, I admit my fatigue got the best of me. I already had what seemed like a few hundred gluten-free conversations, so I mistakenly "assumed" this booth was gluten-free safe due to the signs everywhere.  Wow, was I wrong and upset, utterly devastated to make the mistake that I haven't made in over a decade of my life, assuming food is gluten-free without asking. 

Why Wasn't Better4UFoods Trade Show Staff Educated?

I asked the woman and man behind the table what was in their gluten free pizza, while handing off my business card on their table,  elaborating that I was a gluten-free blogger. As I tasted it, they said, "We aren't serving gluten-free pizza now." So I said, "excuse me, this is not gluten-free pizza on your gluten-free table?" They looked around puzzled, scared and in that silence, I did what any other Celiac Disease diagnosed patron would do... I ran off to the bathroom to eliminate all of the recent samples I just ate by all means necessary. I had no other choice! My trade show and my health would be at risk if my body has an auto-immune attack. Therefore, I tried my best to remove the food from by stomach asap. 

Be wary of supporting gluten-free products from those who know little to nothing of a category that is rooted by actual health concerns - Celiac Disease. 

Better4UFoods tricked me and likely many other innocent gluten-free trade professionals at Expo West 2015. I encourage others to come forward and claim if they were sick after eating at Better4UFoods Expo West 2015 table. We can't stand for this ignorance in our natural food industry. The time to educate all and stop turning your head is now!

Better4UFoods Never Apologized 

I waited over a week to write this article because during this encounter I had left my business card. The woman and man behind the the Better4UFoods booth apparently didn't care that they "glutened" me. My card says that I'm a  gluten-free blogger, my phone, email, social sites and that have Celiac Disease since 1997 are clearly noted on the business card. I received no phone call, email, text or outreach whatsoever. One would think that a company with a backbone of either allergens or gluten related illnesses wouldn't stoop this low. 

Trust is only earned. Never assume, and never trust anything is gluten-free until you read labels and talk to people behind the company. Use your eyes, ears and heart or say NO. 

In our natural products industry, we know that gluten-free isn't a fad, and it only has one strict definition. It's not easy. I repeat, gluten-free is not easy. Clearly, gluten-free guidelines by the FDA issued in August 2014 only helped out a little bit. Gluten-free ingredients and risks of cross contamination must be proven gluten-free safe via product testing <20 ppm per FDA. For those with Celiac Disease, we prefer testing <10 ppm and ideally <5ppm due to so many contamination risks.  Better4UFoods had gluten pizza in the same oven cooking on a table that had gluten free certified signs, and banners everywhere. It's a disgrace in 2015 at a natural food show that gluten health risks still exist by manufacturers who are empowered to set examples.  Yet Better4UFoods tried to save themselves by putting up an "allergen risk" sign on their booth. 

I would never buy a product from Better4UFoods when they conducted this type of health risk in public at a natural products respectable industry trade show. Who knows what happens behind the kitchen oven and in their manufacturing facility. That's my biggest concern to other healthy gluten free consumers and business professionals who trusted them.

Until next food show, I move forward, but I'll never forget.  Have you had a glutened experience and didn't share it? Please share it today so that we can learn from each other.

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