Well if you buy Amy's rice crust pizza, which is clearly labelled gluten free on the box, that's when.
For sale in the gluten free freezer section of my local healthfood store I was excited to see an organic rice crust pizza for sale. Inspecting the box it clearly said "gluten free", I quickly scanned the ingredients to make sure that they hadn't used wheat starch with the gluten removed, was satisfied that it was okay, so bought it.
It wasn't until I got home that I read the allergy information small print which says "This product is manufactured in a facility that processes foods containing wheat, milk, soy, tree nuts and seeds…"
Well that really sucks. You can’t label a product gluten free then manufacture it in the same facility that wheat is processed and hope that the small print gets read.
Their website in the special diets section says "Amy's is sensitive to the dietary needs and concerns of our consumers…" And they say about their rice crust pizza "Amy's cheese and tomato pizza made with a tender organic rice crust will surprise and delight those who do not tolerate wheat..."
How can something be guaranteed gluten safe if the contamination risk is there?
Their FAQ sections deals with questions on allergies:
"Q. I have several food allergies. Is there a possibility of cross contamination in your facility?
A. Amy's Kitchen recognizes the needs of our customers who have allergies or sensitivities to nuts, gluten, certain spices, etc. Amy's always fully discloses all ingredients (except for specific spices used in the product)... At Amy's we take every precaution to ensure that cross contamination of ingredients does not occur in our production facility but we want you to know that this product was produced in a plant that processes foods containing wheat, milk, soy, tree nuts and seeds…"
"Q. What is the difference between wheat free and gluten free? Are they the same?
A. If a product is gluten free it is automatically wheat free [wheat-free.org comment: nope not true, wheat starch with the gluten removed is used in some gluten free products], but the opposite is not true. Products that are labeled "wheat free" contain some form of gluten such as rye, barley or oats, or the product would be labeled gluten free.
Amy's Kitchen labels products as gluten free if they contain no wheat, rye, barley or oats. People who want to avoid wheat can do so by purchasing our gluten free products. While we do have gluten-containing ingredients in several of our products, we take special precautions to assure that we do not have cross contamination between a gluten containing and a gluten free product."
Is Amy's jumping on the wheat/gluten free bandwagon without making any effort to guarantee the products real gluten free status, hence the disclaimer? Are they cynically producing foods for the "celebrity wheat allergy crowd", where it doesn't matter if a bit of wheat has contaminated the gluten free product?
You simply cannot label a product gluten free then on the same packaging state it is manufactured in the same facility that wheat is used. It's just not acceptable. How can I know that it is safe for me to eat? How can I know that the day they made my gluten free pizza wasn't the day that some contamination did occur? I'm not that desperate for pizza that I'm going to risk it, especially when I can make my own guaranteed wheat free pizza crust.
On the face of it Amy's looks to have a great range of gluten free products, it's a pity that their gluten free status is not guaranteed, to allow that nasty little disclaimer on the packaging to be removed. I will be contacting Amy's for their comments on this issue.
We have the same problem with a severe dairy allergy in the family. No amount of dairy is safe. It seems that with the new labeling law, just about every manufacturer is adding that the item is made in a facility that processes foods containing wheat, milk, soy, etc. I think this is their way of avoiding liability. It's just easier to say their item might be contaminated rather than actually preventing contamination. Having said that, I think the real issue is whether the item was made on the same equipment as other items that contain the offending items. I have not seen any contamination (so far) with "manufactured in a facility that uses" but I have seen contamination when "manufacturer on equipment shared by" labels.
Some items are manufactured in a dedicated area of the plant. Blue Diamond Nut Thins state they are made in a facility that processes wheat, but when I called them, they told me that it was made in a dedicated area.
Coming from the land 'Down Under', with strict labelling labelling laws regarding common allergens in place, manufactured food claiming a 'gluten free' status is pretty much always safe. I have yet to come across a manufactured product that is an issue.
Sadly, however, there are many restaurants and food service outlets that have been misusing the gluten free term. I have blogs about it on my hubpage where I take many businesses to task regarding this matter.
As of now, the USDA does not regulate the labeling of gluten free products so read the fine print. For people with slight allergies, cross contamination may not present a problem, but I'm celiac and I have gotten very ill from cross contamination. I don't buy anything unless it clearly says gluten free with no warnings of cross contamination in the fine print, or anywhere else.
This is very annoying. I am finding the same thing. I buy "gluten-free" labeled stuff, only later to realize when get it home that is has been "made in a facility that processes wheat, milk, soy, etc..." Ugh. How can they get away with processing "gluten-free" food in a processor that also processes wheat!?
It is infuriating that there doesn't seem to be more concern. If manufacturers wish to disclaim and limit liability they should make the disclaimer legible and easy to find. Maybe similarly to tobacco warnings, no amount of a toxin is safe and gluten is a toxin to a Celiac. Almost all nuts processed in the US appear to be processed on shared equipment. I am so tired of getting sick and now my son appears to also be affected. It is enough to make you cry, especially when you are paying so much for 'gluten free' foods and trying to be so careful.
Don't get me wrong, I love Amy's products. However, I just recently found out I am severely gluten intolerant. I bought two of Amy's "Gluten Free" frozen dinners. The only thing I have eaten that I didn't prepare myself and I have been sick for two days. I have been trying to research as to whether or not products that say "gluten free" are safe to eat. Then I did notice that in small print on Amy's box it said it was processed in a facility that processed foods containing wheat. I am guessing that cross-contamination risk is very high. Think about how fine flour dust is. It seems like it would be hard to have that much control over dust particles.
I was diagnosed with celiac disease on 11/01/11 and have been VERY cautious about everything I eat. After months of eating only fresh fruits and vegetables, GF meats and lots of rice, I decided to reward myself with Amy's Gluten Free Lasagna See: http://www.amys.com/products/product-detail/entrees/000041
Within two hours I was very sick and have been for the last 3 days. I am SO disappointed with this company. The label GLUTEN FREE is absolutely incorrect, misleading and I recommend that anyone with a gluten sensitivity to stay away from all Amy's products in the US until they fix their cross contamination issue.