A morning stroll through my neighbourhood was ruined when I peeked in the window of a local, highly-regarded ‘gluten bakery’ and spied items labelled ‘gluten-free*‘ in their kiosk showcase.
When I inquired of the staff about the meaning of this label, they cautioned that while the items were – in their words – gluten free, the baking was created in the confines of their gluten bakery, in the same space as gluten baking with the same equipment, baked in the same pans and in the same ovens as gluten baking, and cooled in proximity to gluten baking.
Staff within the kiosk ‘try’ to remember to use dedicated GF tongs. [Only] if customers identify themselves as celiacs, allergic or sensitive to gluten or requiring 100% gluten-free food, will staff inform them about how these items are prepared.
In summary, I was enlightened that, “while the baking is labelled ‘gluten-free*,’ and is verbally promoted as ‘gluten free,’ it should not be considered ‘gluten-free.’ “
- Say what?! Are you as confused as I am?
- Are you as upset by these increasingly common labeling practices?
- Who is buying baking created in a gluten bakery labelled as, ‘GF*, gluten-free, gluten-friendly, no gluten added?’
- Who is recommending these bakeries to other gluten-free shoppers?
Did you know?
1. Celiac Canada 1 strongly advises those adversely affected by gluten that
- “It is NOT recommended to purchase “gluten-free” baked products from bakeries that also make gluten-containing items. This is because the risk of gluten cross contamination is very high due to airborne flour dust, as well as gluten cross contamination from dough adhering to equipment and baking pans.”
2. Celiac Canada also advises us that even if celiacs do not experience overt symptoms of gluten ingestion, damage IS occurring on the inside, triggering the autoimmune response that so negatively impacts our health in the long term.
3. Did you know that what this business and so many others are doing by promoting these products as ‘GF*, gluten-free, gluten-friendly, no gluten added’ is actually against the law, as per Health Canada’s Regulatory Requirements Labeling Laws, enacted on August 4, 2012? In essence,
- It is prohibited to label, package, sell or advertise a food in a manner likely to create an impression that it is a gluten-free food if the food contains any gluten protein or modified gluten protein, including any gluten protein fraction, referred to in the definition “gluten” in subsection B.01.010.1(1). 2
4. Can we count on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to monitor these claims? No, we cannot. Like so many government departments, the CFIA is vastly understaffed and operates largely on a complaint driven basis.
5. Have you complained to the CFIA? I have. The first thing they want to know is whether I have been made ill from this baking with symptoms I associate with gluten ingestion. Must I knowingly ingest food that is highly likely to contain gluten – and become ill – before a concern is taken seriously? This is foremost a labeling issue and if consumed, could quickly become a safety issue.
We have the power! Please help to protect the interests of the celiac and gluten-free communities:
- Do not purchase products from the dozens of gluten bakeries that suggest that they can deliver on a promise of ‘gluten-free.’
- Do not recommend these products to others
- Do complain to these businesses that they are misrepresenting their products. By law, ‘gluten-free anything’ means they ‘safe for celiacs.’
- Do lodge a concern about ‘labeling practices’ with the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342.. They will direct you to the proper channels. Your identity will remain strictly anonymous.
- Support hard-working bakeries who show that they care about our health. You know who they are! They undertake proper ingredients sourcing, cross contact prevention protocol or are 100% gluten-free.
Let’s be a part of the solution. If not, we will continue to receive what we are now getting.
Regulatory Requirements for Gluten-Free Foods
Division 24 of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) sets out specific regulations that apply to “Foods for Special Dietary Use”.
A “food for special dietary use” is defined in B.24.001 of the FDR as a food that has been specially processed or formulated to meet the particular requirements of a person:
- in whom a physical or physiological condition exists as a result of a disease, disorder or injury; or
- for whom a particular effect, including but not limited to weight loss, is to be obtained by a controlled intake of foods.
As per section B.24.003(1)(g), a gluten-free food that meets the requirements described in section B.24.018, is one of the types of foods for special dietary use that are covered by the requirements of Division 24.
As of August 4, 2012, section B.24.018 of the Food and Drug Regulations will state that:
It is prohibited to label, package, sell or advertise a food in a manner likely to create an impression that it is a gluten-free food if the food contains any gluten protein or modified gluten protein, including any gluten protein fraction, referred to in the definition “gluten” in subsection B.01.010.1(1).
Subsection B.01.010.1(1) reads:
(a) any gluten protein from the grain of any of the following cereals or the grain of a hybridized strain created from at least one of the following cereals:
(iv) triticale, or
(v) wheat, kamut or spelt; or
(b) any modified gluten protein, including any gluten protein fraction, that is derived from the grain of any of the cereals referred to in subparagraphs (a)(i) to (v) or the grain of a hybridized strain referred to in paragraph (a). (gluten)