Is it gluten free?

Is it, or isn't it gluten free? Will I ever know?
Is it, or isn’t it gluten free? Will I ever know?

Yes? No? I don’t know! Oh, geez! I just want for once to be able to buy a product and not have to think twice about it after I’ve consumed some of it.

So, it happened again. I guess I let down my defenses. Twice in fact, in the last month.

Both times with Trader Joe’s products. I really should just stop shopping there. But the store is so close, it’s small, unlike those mega super marts, the people are friendly and the prices are really good.

So what happened this time? Well, a couple of weeks ago we had some friends in for a casual get together. My friends are amazing and are always trying to bring gluten free products over to our house. We do almost ALL the entertaining because, unfortunately, everyone is too scared to feed me. But seriously folks, still invite me over. I can and will bring my own food.

Anyway, someone brought Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus. A quick glance at the ingredients looked safe. I mean, come on, it’s hummus.  It was good. Someone else also brought some really cute little Trader Joe crackers. OMG, again the ingredients looked safe so I ate a few. I really liked them so I asked the person who brought them what they were called so I could pick up a bag at TJ’s. I get to TJ’s and I look at the fine print, “Processed in a facility with wheat”. Seriously? Seriously!

Okay, well, I can still buy the hummus, right?  I know how to make homemade hummus, but again, sometimes I just want to be pampered a little bit.  And, yes, by pampered, I mean not having to buy the raw ingredients, make it myself and clean up the equipment used in making the item. And, no, I can count on one hand how many times I eat out in a YEAR!

So, for the second time this week, I’m digging into this store bought hummus with my organic carrots and I think, “uh oh, this isn’t labelled GLUTEN FREE”. Well, but, the ingredients sound safe. Hmm…. no allergens are listed but then “gluten” is not required to be listed, just “wheat”.

Google if “Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus is gluten free”?  Well, I come up with a list of products that are gluten free and a ridiculous long explanation of gluten free which is just a bunch of crap that I have to read through and already know. The hummus in question is not on the list. Now I get this weird feeling that this maybe the trigger of some migraine’s and various other unmentionable symptoms I’ve had over the last few weeks.

“Hey, dear hubby, you want to finish this hummus?” Thank God I have a husband who can eat all the products I buy and then later doubt their gluten free status.

I don’t feel safe eating the store bought hummus anymore.

As #45 would say,” SAD, bigly SAD!”

Okay, gluten free rant over. You can be glad the rants don’t come as often as they used to.

#TraderJoes

#glutenfree

#Celiac

Thank God My Toilet Bowl Cleaner is GLUTEN FREE!

Oh my gosh, I am so relieved to know that my TOILET BOWL CLEANER is GLUTEN FREE.  I plan on drinking my toilet water! NOT!

So, let me get this right, my bacon and ice cream, because they are meat and dairy products, DON’T have to be labeled if they are processed on equipment or in a facility with wheat, or contain added gluten according to the FDA. But my toilet cleaner is labeled?  

GLUTEN FREE TOILET BOWL CLEAER
GLUTEN FREE TOILET BOWL CLEANER

Guess what? Processed, even just sliced and packaged products of meats and ice cream are known to contain enough gluten to make me sick.

I’ve been having vague tummy issues so I’ve been trying to narrow it down to what I’ve eaten lately.  In doing so, I emailed Trader Joe’s the following:

How can I verify if products are produced in a gluten free facility? Are your Uncured Bacon Ends & Pieces and French Vanilla Ice Cream Gluten Free?  They are on not on your Gluten Free Online pdf list.  I am Celiac and am trying to figure out what I am reacting to.

Trader Joes Reply: Thank you for contacting us with your product inquiries.  In response, both of the products referenced do not contain any gluten ingredients, however, they have not been tested for possible cross contamination.  Therefore, we do not make a “gluten free” claim for these products.

They didn’t answer the first part of my question:  Are they produced in a gluten free facility?

Duh, I can read the ingredients label and know that gluten wasn’t added but I’m asking about cross contamination.

Trader Joe’s used to be one of my favorite stores.  But over the last couple of years I find I am buying fewer and fewer of their products for this very reason.

Back to making more homemade ice cream, homemade granola, my own baked goods and buying real food that I can identify the species: a banana, an egg, a zucchini etc.  I’m realizing that meat “if packaged” may not be safe.  I can usually get a straight answer from the butcher at the local market.  Did you know that a packaged  “fresh” turkey or packaged bacon can contain gluten?  And as mentioned, legally  ice cream doesn’t need to be labeled.  Dairy and meat are exempt from the FDA lbelling law of the top 8 allergens.

 

Gluten Lesson Learned AGAIN!

Lesson Learned AGAIN!  I should be blogging about my vacation but here it goes again….

Gluten? Is it hiding in that prepackaged Tri-tip sold at Costco?  The ingredient list looks fine. But the packaging doesn’t say anything about allergens.  Ok, google the product name and gluten free.  Nope, don’t come up with anything. Hmm, there’s a phone number on the package. Ok, I’ll call.  The person on the other end of the line, says, “I’m pretty sure it’s fine, it’s gluten free. But let me check and call you back”.  (This is a local distributor in Huntington Park, California)

This whole Tri-tip issue came up because on our recent travels we stopped to visit some friends who wanted to feed us/me.  They tossed a prepackaged Tri-tip from their Costco in Medford, Oregon onto the grill. The brand sold in Oregon is pre-packaged but WAS labeled Gluten Free.  Unfortunately, after inquiring about cross contamination, I knew I could not eat their offerings.  They have heated wheat rolls on their bbq and clearly they have gluten food products in their kitchen.  I’m really getting tired of trying to explain to kind friends why I can not eat their offerings.  NO, pouring boiling water over your cutting knives and utensils DOES NOT MAKE THEM GLUTEN FREE. Maybe washing several times and scrubbing with a never before used scrubber would work. I don’t really know how to make something gluten free except to NEVER expose it to gluten.

I had not realized until today that meat products are exempt from the labeling law.  What the HELL?

Food Labeling Requirements: On August 2, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a new regulation defining the term “glutenfree” for voluntary food labeling. This new federal definition standardizes the meaning of “gluten-free” foods regulated by the FDA. Foods regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including meat and egg products, are not subject to this regulation. The regulation requires that any food with the term “gluten-free” on the label must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food should contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten. The FDA rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

Well, I finally decided while walking around Costco while waiting for phone confirmation if the Tri-tip in my cart was safe, to not buy it.  I wouldn’t receive the confirmation phone call until much later, after I had left the store.

The answer from the company, the certified Angus Beef, Steakhouse Beef Tri-Tip from American BBQ Company distributed by www.GWFG.com is not gluten free.

Once again, an excellent reminder of why I should NEVER eat other people’s food unless they are also Celiac and their kitchen is 100% gluten free.

I was a bit extra cautious this time because recently I had once again slipped up on my diligence of being safe.

I hadn’t been to a Starbucks in years except to purchase a bottled by Coke Cola Starbucks Mocha Frapuccino, which are certified gluten free.  It had been my birthday the day before and I still get those kind emails from Starbucks saying I could get a free drink “on them” for my birthday.  We were traveling and had a very early start.  I was sleepy.  I had a free drink gift certificate.  I goofed up.  I stopped at a Starbucks and redeemed my free birthday coffee certificate.  I splurged.  I got a vanilla latte.

Oh no!  That’s right, Starbucks coffee’s are NOT GLUTEN FREE.  NO PREPARED DRINKS CAN BE GUARANTEED GF AT STARBUCKS. Repeat to self, Starbucks coffee’s are NOT GLUTEN FREE.  Not even a plain regular cup of coffee.

In about thirty minutes after thoroughly enjoying my vanilla latte my stomach began to feel a little off.  Hmmm……  google Starbucks again and gluten free.

Damn, the mix Starbuck’s uses for the vanilla flavor contains gluten.  Oh, and a reminder, ALL of Starbucks teas contain gluten.  Yes, you read that right.

Lesson learned.  Lesson learned until I forget AGAIN!

Food From a Celiac’s Point Of View

Food, it sustains us.

Food, it can even be enjoyable to eat.

Food, shouldn’t be feared.

Food, consumption shouldn’t be a chore.

Sometimes, I’m just sick of food.

Sometimes, I really don’t want to cook.

Sometimes, I hate having to think of what to eat.

Sometimes, I wish I could eat anything, anywhere, prepared by anyone.

I know folks mean well when they offer or prepare food for me.

But how can I explain the risks of cross contamination? 

Your cutting board has traces of gluten. Your grill has traces of gluten. Your kitchen sponge and dishtowels have traces of gluten. Your pots and pans may have traces of gluten. Did you remember to wash your hands after you ate that cracker?

Yes, you read the labels. But did you buy the product labeled “gluten free” or just the one that didn’t list any obvious gluten ingredients? Are you sure you know all the ways gluten is hidden in common everyday foods?  What? Gluten in tea? salad dressing? ice cream? cheese? sausage? lunch meat? canned vegetables? soup broth? The list is shockingly long.

Did you google the company to verify if the product is produced on a wheat free production line or wheat free facility?  I do.  Every time I buy a processed food product I check the label, even if it was labelled safe last time.  If I can’t find a satisfactory answer, I don’t buy it and I don’t eat it.

How can I explain what gluten does to me? Even the tiniest trace amount can cause me to not feel well.  I may need to know where a bathroom is for sudden tummy issues.  I may get a migraine that lasts for a couple of days. Afterwards, I may be exhausted for a few days and suffer from brain fog. My joints will hurt. I may feel bloated.  The list of symptoms is long.

Please don’t be insulted when I bring my own food.

I’m sorry I have to pick the place if we eat out.

The list of restaurants that claim they could fix me gf is getting very short.  I may eat at a place 2 or 3 times, but then the next time I may feel I was “glutenized”. Seems like every place I thought was safe eventually fails.  This includes restaurants that have gluten free menu’s.  It is one thing to offer gluten free foods. It is totally another thing to understand how to prepare food and keep it gluten free.  There are extremely few restaurants that have been trained in gf food prep. It includes a separate prep area, separate pans and utensils and safe food handling techniques.

Please try to understand why I don’t register for lots of events that provide food. I can’t eat the food included and no where have I seen events let you pay a reduced price to opt out of the food offerings. Why should I have to pay the same price and or even more if I need the gf option?

And yes,the food at events looks and smells so heavenly. But, having to ask about ingredients and prep area questions and then to wait for answers and clarification just make me look like a “snobbish jerk”. But unlike a lot of people who “CHOOSE” to eat gluten free because they think this is the latest and greatest fad diet, THIS IS NOT A CHOICE FOR ME.  THIS IS SURVIVAL.

When these people make a huge fuss at a restaurant to have a gf meal and then order CAKE for dessert, they hurt Celiacs.  Just like when someone uses a fake service dog or try’s to pass their pet off as a service animal, they hurt true users of highly trained service animals.  And then it comes down to faith.  Can I have faith and trust that the chef and staff “get it” and will do everything possible to make sure the food they serve me is safe.

Please, don’t tell me it is in my head or maybe “you just exercised too much” or “you’re dehydrated”. Or “it can’t really be that bad.” Or “you can’t really be that sensitive to gluten”. I have lived with this disease my whole life and with an understanding of the diagnosis these past 5+ years.  I now know, and have been validated by others with the disease, this is not in my head. I’m not crazy. I’m did not make it up all those years I was not feeling well.  How do I know?  Because now that I eat gluten free, I feel 99% better most of the time. Of over 30 plus diagnosed medical conditions that I had when eating gluten, now eating gluten free, most all of those ailments and conditions don’t occur regularly anymore.

I know when I’ve been “glutenized” or cross contaminated with gluten. Only I can understand how I feel.  Please be patient with me while I fret over where my next meal will come from.

Don’t think I can’t read your body language, your eye rolls, tsk’s and sighs.  I know I frustrate you and you wish I’d just get over it and deal with a little gluten.  Tell that to someone with a nut, shellfish or other food allergy.  My symptoms just aren’t as visible as theirs, but they are no less serious.

Give thanks that you don’t live with this disease.

I give thanks for the gift of a second chance at life.  I give thanks for the most amazing husband that does his absolute best at helping to keep me healthy and gluten free.  I give thanks for the friends who understand I still want to socialize, but I don’t want to eat their food.  I give thanks for the friends who still include me in dinner party’s and other food centric social events.

Gluten Free Corn Meal

It really shouldn’t be that hard to find gluten free corn meal.  Lately, with the new FDA labeling guidelines, I find that I must continue to diligently read labels and the fine print.  Most corn meal is processed on the same equipment as wheat flour.  I used to be able to buy a tiny, itty bitty bag of Bob’s Red Mill GLUTEN FREE Corn Meal at the local market for an outrageous price.  They don’t seem to be carrying this item anymore.  Do I really need to order my essential baking ingredients online?  No spur of the moment baking in this household.  And on top of that, my gluten free corn meal is going to cost me two to three times as much as regular corn meal.  Outrageous!  Yes, regular corn meal can be had for a dollar a pound.  Gluten Free is going to run me around three bucks a pound.  Oh, and did I mention that my local gluten free bakery is closing their doors end of March.  Insert sad face!  At least Miglet’s was there for me when I started this sometimes crazy diet (with Celiac disease). Fortunately I’ve had over 5 years to learn how to bake gluten free and to modify most of my favorite recipes.  I will, however, miss Miglet’s donuts.  The last thing I ate before I went gluten free was some glutinous Christy’s Donut’s.  I miss sour dough bread too, but not like I miss a good donut.