Gluten and Cross-Contamination Issues

Posted by on Oct 12, 2011 in Basics | 0 comments

Okay, so I feel like I need to begin this note by saying, “I feel so stupid!” And it’s true, I do. But I also feel vulnerable and frustrated. I fell head-on into a “You know better than that, Connie!” trap. So, laying it all out in the open, maybe I can help someone else not fall into the same situation, I’m going to share my “urgh” experience with you. Did I say, “I feel stupid”?

I was gluten-contaminated … partially by my own doing. (Do you see the shame on my face?) Partially by trusting in a system that isn’t perfect yet. Now that I’ve recovered, I can share with you what happened. 

I have gluten-free staple items that I shop for on a regular basis. It is a given that they will go into my shopping cart. Each time I shop, I also include a few new items to try. I do this for a couple of reasons … 1. to continue expanding my “safe” food repertoire, and 2. to be able to bring you new product reviews that I can tell you about with first hand experience. I don’t share a product with you, whether I think it is a great product or one that could use some revisiting by the manufacturer, unless I’m sure at the time of publication that it is “safe” and worth mentioning. 

Recently while shopping and enjoying the company of my shopping partner, I found a product, new to me, that has one ingredient: quinoa. (I love quinoa and have used it many, many times from a different manufacturer, who clearly states they are a gluten-free company. And I’ve never had a problem.) I decided to try the unfamiliar quinoa. When I returned back home, I researched the company online, as I always do, and quickly found on their website the statement, “Quinoa is naturally gluten-free.” In my haste and still caught up in the company I was keeping, I mistook it as the website stating the product was “gluten-free”. I put this product in my cabinet to be used very soon. 

Here is where I insert once again, “You know better than that, Connie!” Just because a product’s ingredients are familiar and known to be naturally gluten-free, and the website states such a fact, doesn’t mean that it is gluten-free! Let me state that again … Naturally gluten-free doesn’t mean you can trust it to be gluten-free. I know that! I learned that back at the very beginning of my gluten-free journey!

Last week I pulled out that package of quinoa and used it in a dinner recipe. Within an hour I was in great discomfort. Minus most of the details, let me just share, that evening I experienced pain in my stomach and gut that felt like they were being run across a cheese grater. This lasted into the wee hours of the morning, only to be followed by feeling foggy-brained, achey all over, and completely overcome by fatigue. I was convinced it had to be a flu bug. How could I be that miserable from gluten? I’d never experienced a gluten reaction like this before. These symptoms began on a Sunday evening. By Tuesday afternoon I was beginning to feel better, still just tired and a little fuzzy in the head. Okay, so I got off pretty easily from that flu bug, right? Later that week on Friday afternoon I had a small bit of leftovers of just the quinoa from Sunday evening’s dinner. Guess what? 45 minutes later – oh, no, here comes the pain again! #@%$! Finally the lightbulb went off … with blinding illumination this time. I’ve gluten-contaminated myself. This time I didn’t experience such a great reaction because I only ate a little, maybe two tablespoonfuls, of quinoa. Just a few hours of upset this time around. But #@%$!

With the package still in my cabinet, I immediately pulled it out and looked everywhere on the package for the key words, “gluten-free”. They were, of course, not found. (I don’t really need to belittle myself yet again for impact, do I?) I called the manufacturer and spoke to the public relations rep, who was quite knowledgable and very interested and willing to listen. I asked her if the quinoa is gluten-free and how it is processed. She explained that though the quinoa itself is naturally gluten-free, the facility where they process it also processes wheat and multiple other grains, as well as dairy items. I shared with her that, even with my knowledge and background, the online product information stating that the quinoa is “naturally gluten-free” could be easily misleading for many. She got it, she really did! She stated she would pursue having those words either removed or further explain that though the product is naturally gluten-free, there may be cross-contamination issues that heed warning. (A product is considered gluten-free and “safe” if the manufacturer practices gluten-free measures and doesn’t process gluten-containing products in the same facility where more than 20 parts per million (PPM) of gluten can occur in the finished gluten-free product.) She asked for more follow-up contact with Daily Forage to follow this concern through to a clear and positive outcome for the gluten-free community. I will definitely be following through with her … and thank her on behalf of the entire community for due diligence. 

So, with all said and done, I come to you with my head upright once again (and have removed the shame, disappointment, and frustration from my face), and remind you that accidents happen. Realize this is a journey … ongoing and forward! Heed due caution, trust that I will always be honest with you, will never bring you something that I don’t completely trust and believe in, and remind you to be your own best advocate. We are united in our gluten-free passion, but each journey is an individual experience. My best to you always!

P.S. I’ve not named this product publicly and have never posted any review or recipe using this product, nor mentioned it in our Quick-Start Gluten Free Pantry. As I shared earlier, I do my “guinea pig” homework before bringing anything to you.

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