Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cross Contamination Is A Secret Killer




Stop using the phrase "Gluten-Free" 
and start using "Reduced Gluten"

In over 20+ years of managing Celiac Disease, I proclaim to you from the top of my lungs and bottom of my heart that gluten cross contamination is the #1 health issue facing gluten-free consumers today. Yet majority of gluten-free consumers do not take gluten seriously and lack a huge education to eat safely.  Most have either no idea of the phrase "cross contamination" or simply don't care how dangerous it is to consume a little bit of gluten in a public kitchen which scares me even more! It's my belief that these everyday cross contamination risks are damaging the entire gluten-free movement and keeping people secretly sick while they carry out their "normal" fake health focussed lives.




Have you worked at a restaurant or at least peeked inside a busy restaurant kitchen? It's a mad house of mastery with multiple chefs, cooks and runners on the line slicing, dicing, sautéing, baking and preparing dishes. In fact, it's quite beautiful at a nice restaurant to watch this unfold. You probably have at least seen it on TV or online cooking shows. However, when any gluten ingredients are involved, especially, wheat flour, an entire kitchen becomes cross contaminated and risks go up for you and me.


We are all different gluten-free species across a realm of diagnosis. Some are diagnosed Celiacs, gluten-free sensitive, wheat allergy, carb free and so on who may opt into removing some gluten filled foods. But that's the key, it's a reduced gluten lifestyle and not actually gluten-free safe. Think about this... When one of us turns into most of us taking cross contamination risks regularly to enjoy a social life we are all losing when you throw away your demand for gluten-free transparency. 

From Instagram posts by Celiacs and other gluten-free consumers using hash tags #glutenfree when enjoying McDonalds, coffees at Starbucks, pizza at a random Italian restaurant that bakes fresh gluten flours and desserts, strict gluten-free lives get flipped upside down. None of those places can guarantee any level of gluten-free safety and nobody is policing them to avoid getting someone glutened. I know this because 20 years ago when I was first diagnosed I flirted with these everyday risks to be social and fit in with family and friends. However, I chose to stop this behavior quickly when I was consistently confused, frustrated and realized how much of a mess the cross contamination of the food industry truly was and how risky my lifestyle became all for eating fries out at a diner. 




Let me be clear since few else will tell you this... the labeled "gluten-free" menu items are littered with gluten cross contamination. Did you ever notice that these menus also have a disclaimer about allergies how they won't guarantee a safe meal? Get a clue people and make a change.  From the salad you ordered with a few bread crumbs on the side to the actual bread accidentally dropped on your salad there is plenty of human error in a busy kitchen and they won't throw away your food to take a loss they will dust off the crumbs. When a special order is made in a busy kitchen you are only receiving a lower risk meal or as I call it a gluten reduced meal. Think about it.




I'll repeat it again nicely... From restaurant menus to self labeled food packaging you are taking a health risk everyday and ruining it for Celiacs who take their health seriously. While you are not.  Even if you start to feel better on your free for all "reduced gluten" lifestyle the amount of gluten you are absorbing is real despite not seeing it so clearly.  Whether you have the no big deal occasional head fog, body ache, GI discomfort, diarrhea or silent symptom you are living sickly. You may dismiss your symptoms or not even know it. Just admit it, you are on a reduced gluten diet and please stop stating the phrase "gluten-free" so that others can succeed in their lifestyle.



Lastly, certified gluten-free brands undergo and agree to a 3rd party protocol of best practice instructions to avoid gluten cross contamination in their manufacturing facilities. They agree to test the final product during each batch as well for full transparency. Despite plenty of human error being possible, 3rd party gluten-free certification is all we have to maintain trust and consistency. Meanwhile, plenty of brands are not certified and simply state in any font type "gluten-free" or make up some random logo which is a risk you need to start recognizing. Does it have a legit, third party approved GF logo on the packaging or is it confusing you?  I'd recommend that you call the company and ask for their QA or Production Manager or President and ask for their gluten-free protocol to ensure it's safe for those with Celiac Disease. If they confuse you even more run away!  Don't purchase products that are a risk to your health despite how good they may taste, c'mon. Tell them your issues and consider boycotting their fake GF products sharing their risk behaviors with others to avoid someone getting ill. 


Many food, beverage and skin care companies respect strict gluten-free guidelines and the important need for following rules to avoid gluten cross contamination. This recognizable gluten-free logo from Gluten Intolerance Group is above and beyond the poor FDA guidlines of <20 ppm gluten cross contamination. It's true that most Celiacs don't respect this FDA guideline because 20ppm is too high! It is! I want the test to show not detectable gluten, not 15 ppm! Gluten Intolerance Group requires <10ppm more strict standard which is in the right direction. I support <5ppm as a preference though. 
Look for the logo on the package (bottom row)



Let's turn this scary yet true analysis of the gluten-free market place into a positive one. I thrive by educating myself on what gluten actually is and where it's found. Eating out is a treat and not regular because there is mid to high risk each time. There are a few dedicated gluten-free restaurants and you should eat there as much as you can. Learn to say, "no" and eat ahead of time or prepare your own snacks when you desire to be social with friends. Even a salad can be a huge risk because trusting a stranger in a mixed kitchen is not worth my time. Get to know restaurant chefs and General Managers and if they listen, learn and show they care give it a try, if not, forget them! A smart chef will be honest and tell you of the risk, so be ready to walk out. Stop trusting so much and demand gluten-free transparency. And most of all grow your own food, whether it be a small garden or big one. Take control of your second chance at life and literally cook every meal in your own gluten-free kitchen and grow up! 

Good luck and leave your comments. Remember, its' either gluten-free or reduced gluten. Continue your education and challenge the gluten-free claims you see and read. Reduced Gluten is not the same as gluten-free and I ask you to spread the message.