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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in Celiac (4)


Labeling Laws: How Much Gluten is Safe to Eat?

Since the FDA re-opened the comment period on the 2007 proposed rules for gluten-free labeling, the question on everyone's mind is, "Is the allowed 20 ppm really safe?"  According to The University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research, the safety limit ceilings out at 10 mg.  This allows quite a large amount of gluten-free labeled foods that contain the FDA's recommended allowable amount of 20 ppm during processing.  In plain English, 20 ppm allows most people with celiac disease to eat 18 slices of gluten-free bread or 9 servings of gluten-free pasta before they reach the limit of 10 mg of gluten in your food.  The Center for Celiac Research has also been studying the rise of gluten intolerances.  In addition to the 1 in 133 people with celiac disease, there are more than 18 million people have gluten sensitivities which range from mild to severe reactions. 

Read more specifics on The Center for Celiac Research's guidelines.

Lend your voice to the comments on the FDA's website

Read The Center for Celiac Research's initial reaction to the proposed law.


“This standard has been in use in Europe for almost two decades,” says Fasano, “and the science supports its adoption in the U.S.” says Alessio Fasano, M.D., director of the University of Maryland (UM) School of Medicine’s Center for Celiac Research and an internationally renowned expert on celiac disease.




FDA Wants to Hear From You About Gluten-free Labeling

Thanks to, a group of folks who built a giant cake for Congress in May of this year, the celiac community and other great organizations, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has re-opened the comment period for the proposed rule on the "gluten-free" labeling of foods.  This rule was originally published in 2007, but nothing has been done about it (i.e., no laws have actually been passed).  How important is this?  Very.  As the gluten-free community grows, so does the marketing of so-called "gluten-free" products.  Currently, it is up to each company to set their own standards.   Some are doing a really good job.  They go above and beyond the FDA proposed requirements of 20 ppm of gluten allowed in products after testing.  Others, however, are not. Those who have Celiac Disease or gluten allergies cannot tolerate even a trace of wheat, rye, barley or other products derived from gluten-containing grains (like soy sauce or some anti-caking agents, etc.).  We need proper labeling so that Tender Foodies in the U.S. can be sure that gluten-free labled products are being processed properly.  Gluten-free labeling could also influence the laws around other allergen labeling as well.  As the gluten-free community, and as the Tender Foodie community as a whole has grown, we have also learned.  Lend your experience and voice to this bill.  Do you think it should be more strict?  Have you had experiences with reactions to foods labeled "gluten-free"?  Do you think it is a good rule as is?  Are you super happy that this proposal is resurfacing?  Let them know.  Those with Celiac Disease comprise 1% of the population, or  1 in 133 people.  The gluten intolerance community (those with sensitivities to gluten) is expected to be around 18 million people.  Add those with a true gluten allergy, and you have a large group of folks that need to know if gluten is in their food.  If you are one of them.  Let the FDA know what you want to have happen.

Go to between now and October 3, 2011.  The docket number is FDA-2005-N-0404.


Interview with Nancy Spears (GR Gluten-Free Fair Coordinator)

After attending the gluten-free food fair last Saturday, I thought I'd drop Nancy Spears a note and ask her how she felt it went.  Nancy is the event coordinator for the Grand Rapids Gluten-free Food Fair.  She also a board member for the Greater Grand Rapids Celiac Support Group and the Celiac Kids Association.  I was struck by the statement that she made on the Celiac Kids "About" page when she wrote,

"I have spent years unknowingly poisoning my husband, my three daughters, and one of my sons with homemade pancakes, waffles, cookies, and cakes . . . I understand the feelings that many of you go through as your children are diagnosed celiac. Twelve years ago, I cried in the pasta isle at a local Meijer store and read labels until I could hardly see."

She, other members of her team and Anchor Baptist Church have taken on the challenge of helping and supporting people with celiac disease, a serious autoimmune response to even the tiniest particle of wheat, barley or rye - or any gluten containing grain.  Here is the e-interview:


How many people ended up attending this year's event?  1565 people registered

People seemed to be pretty happy with the event.  What kind of feedback did you get?   People loved the venue.  The DeltaPlex was a great location and there was lots of parking.  We have received lots of comments about the event from people.  One person, diagnosed 1-1/2 yrs. comment about how nice it was to be able to taste products.  She found many products that she would buy now, but had not purchased in the past.  It is so hard to spend money on something new because of past disappointments.  One of our goals was to get people who eat gluten free face to face with vendors and restaurants.  We succeeded in doing that and the vendors were very pleased with the experience.

How many people are in your adult and children support groups?  The email list  for the celiac kids group is over 170 with a monthly attendance of 20-35 and the adult group is about the same.  Attendance at each has been as high as seventy, depending on the topic, the weather, the time of year, etc.

What are the top 3 biggest social difficulties people run into when they get diagnosed with celiac disease?  

1.  People don't understand that cheating is not a choice.  2.  Family/friends not being supportive  3.  Missing the favorite foods-have not found a gluten free "replacement"

How have you seen the food allergy community, and the celiac community change over the years?  It is growing!!! More people are being diagnosed because doctors know what to look for.  There are so many people with a-typical symptoms,  and 38% of people being diagnosed have no symptoms.  Family genes do matter.  Everyone related to a person diagnosed should be tested.  Awareness has led to more people self-diagnosing--without going to a doctor.  People should still go for the diagnosis when it is possible.  It is important because of family genes (and less people think you are crazy).  Regardless, people who feel better or function better on a gluten free diet should be on one, even if the testing is negative! 

Tell me what you thought was the best part about the Gluten Free Food Fair?  The best part of the whole event is that the church all agrees that we are called by God to do this.  People tell me what a great job I did organizing the event.  Although it is some work, I just invite vendors and people.  The church team works hard.  God does the rest and we are amazed!  It is so much fun to give this free gift to the gluten free commuity. I was very pleased with the turnout of vendors, stores, restaurants and the community. 


When is your next event?  Our next event is already scheduled for May 19, 2012. 


My thanks to Nancy Spears for taking the time to give these thoughtful responses.  Now we can mark our calendars for next year's event as well! 

Let the Tender Foodie know what you thought and if you have any feedback from this year's event or ideas for next year.



Gluten-Free Fair Success in G-Rap.

Many Attended

This past Saturday, I walked into the Delta Plex after hearing that 1565 people registered to attend the Gluten-Free Food Fair that day. 

If someone had told me 5 years ago, that this many peops would be attending a gluten-free anything, I would have been shocked.  But because the number of folks struggling to implement an allergen-free diets has exploded in the last few years,  the crowds were more of a bittersweet confirmation. The potential whys and wherefores of this explosion are just starting to be truly studied and discussed.  More on that in another post.

King Arthur Flour's Brownie Mix and a Couple of Nice Peops.


Multiple Food Allergies Need More Know-How

At the fair I witnessed that the market is also attempting to serve the millions who have multiple food allergies, yours truly included.  There is a long way to go in shared knowledge about multiple and more complex food allergies, which I predict, sadly, will also rise in the near future.  Many of the vendors at the booths were also the brains behind the product, the owners of the company, the big Kahunas.  They were the most knowledgeable about the factories, their partners and the ingredients.  There were a handful at the booths, however, that would confidently say things like, "All ingredients were processed in a factory free of the "Big 8" allergens (free of corn, wheat/gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, treenuts, shellfish/seafood & fish)," even though the labeling on the products themselves said differently.  Also, one or two other vendors couldn't break down a few mystery ingredients listed their products.  Most everyone was just fantastically knowledgeable, however, and brought their own experience to the table.   I hope that all vendors will continue to be and learn ahead of this growing market, and also train their staff with an emphasis on ingredient and factory knowledge.  There is a great deal to learn for all of us.


Cool Products

I did find some interesting new products, some of which I'm going to try.  I'll tell you about them over the next few weeks as I do.  If you would like to try them as well, let me know what you think!  In the meantime, here is a quick list.


Allerbling: I love this product.  It is hard enough for adults to communicate about their food allergies.  Imagine what it is like for a kid?  I can't.  But this product could really help.  Just stick out your wrist, kiddo and let your teachers, your friends' parents have an immediate list of what you can't eat.  It's a cute little bracelet with interchangeable parts that represent even some of the more uncommon allergies as well as the Big 8.


Somewhat Organic Soap:  I have to say that their slogan, "Any more organic and we'd be lying to you,' caught my attention.  From what I understood, lye is the only non-organic ingredient in the soap.  What I liked about them is that they have a Simple Soap that they said has zero fragrance.  It does contain coconut and rosemary extract, however, so it isn't quite as simple as super senstive people might need, but the vendors did say that super sensitive kids really liked it.  Your call.  Their other soaps with essential oil fragrance were lovely and felt great.


1-2-3 Gluten-FreeAlong with gluten and dairy, I am also allergic to baker's yeast.  So I simply don't eat sandwiches or biscuits any more.  I picked up a package of the 1-2-3 biscuit mix because it is free of all of the Big-8 allergens, and it is also yeast-free.   I'm excited to try this.


Keeki Pure & Simple:  A gluten-free nail polish developed first for celiac kids who might chew their nails, it is also "suitable for vegans" and for adults.  Fun colors. 


Organic Bistro Entrees & Bowls:  These conscientious folks were offering a taste of different products throughout the day.  Most of the ingredients in the Thai Style Yellow Curry with Chicken that I tried were, indeed, organic.  It was delicious.  A great quick meal alternative when you don't have the time to put together a lunch.


Mrs. Glee's Noodles:  A quick cook noodle made from navy beans and non-GMO corn.  It is also fortified with some of the vitamins and minerals that Tender Foodies tend to lack, like B Vitamins, Folic Acid, and Iron; as well as natural protein from the "ungassed" beans. 

The brains behind Mrs. Glee's 

Restaurants Serving Gluten-Free

I was excited to find out that The Blue Water Grill has a dedicated gluten-free fryer, so you can get your french fries without cross contamination.  Brann's also was there serving sweet potato fries from their dedicated gluten-free fryer.  I was pleasantly surprised to find Vitale's serving up gluten-free pizza, with pizza crusts from Coco Charlotte, a local-to-Grand Rapids gluten-free baker.  Willy O's, however, was serving up a gluten-free, yeast-free and dairy-free veggie pizza.  It was thin and crispy and pretty good.  It set off a few pleasure bells in my head since I haven't had any kind of pizza in years  I will have to try it again when its fresh from the oven and without broccoli (not a big broccoli fan).

Saffron's Marketplace was also there and they have a great little exclusively gluten-free shop.  I stopped by there after the fair to check out the rice cheese and daiya cheese which was whispered about throughout the fair-goers as great dairy alternatives.  But alas, this favorite will remain a mystery to me as it contains inactive yeast.   

Your server rep from Vitales and a few gluten-free options including beer and pasta



Vitale's gluten-free pizza went like hotcakes and got rave reviews


Nutritional Learning Curves


I was disappointed that I couldnt' get there in time to see Marie Catrib's demonstration of gluten-free bread making.  But I was able to catch Heather Leets, RD Dietician with Spartan Stores.  Heather discussed that rice, potatos and corn are the most common replacements for wheat, however, their starch content is high, as is the potential for weight gain if you turn to these exclusively.  

Heather then reviewed some of her favorite protein-rich, low-starch, high-nutrition flours.  These flours are my favorites as well and include teff flour, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth and a new flour to me - sorghum. I experienced sorghum flour for the first time last week as I took the plunge and had a beer after 10 long years.  Gluten-free of course.  One interesting point Heather made, was that people with celiac disease (and I'd like to add any food allergy to that) can have a tougher time absorbing nutrition.   Whole grains like these are rich in protein, soluble and insoluble fiber, B Vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium and selenium.  Amaranth, for instance has 3 times the fiber of wheat!  Personally, I feel a remarkable difference when these grains are part of my daily diet. 

I am also happy to have learned a little more about each of these vendors at a great event.

Thanks to the Celiac Ministries of Anchor Baptist Church for putting on this very successful fair!  Stay tuned for a Q&A with Nancy Spears, the mastermind behind the event.