The gluten-free blogosphere has been buzzing the past week over a controversy regarding how pretzel - snack food giant Snyder's of Hanover, based in Hanover, PA will manufacture and label their new snack products which will be marketed to people on gluten-free diets.
After a conversation with a Snyder's of Hanover company representative, Jules Dowler Shepard, author, spokesperson for the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Disease Research and founder of Jules Gluten Free, not assured that the new SOH products would be appropriately labeled for those on medically prescribed gluten-free diets issued a "Call to Action" to the gluten-free community. Members of the community contacted Snyder's of Hanover en mass to voice concerns regarding the manufacturing practices and labeling of their new "gluten-free" pretzels and additional snack products listed on the company website as "Made Without Gluten."
Company CEO Mr. Carl Lee acted swiftly to announce that Snyder's of Hanover will test and label their new pretzel product through the GFCO protocol. The "Gluten-Free Certification Organization" is a non-profit program of The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG)® based in Seattle, WA.
Without FDA guidelines in place for the labeling of "gluten-free" products GIG's GFCO independent testing and labeling program, and their "Certified Gluten-Free" logo on product packaging is an assurance to consumers that a product contains less than 10ppm gluten. Currently the FDA is considering following European Union guidelines to allow 20ppm gluten in products labeled gluten-free.
Jamie at Gluten-Free Mom recently covered this story in her blog and I encourage anyone wanting to learn more about Snyder's of Hanover's decision to test and label their new pretzel product "Certified Gluten-Free" to read her piece on the subject. It's educational and addresses the issues gluten-free consumers face without FDA gluten-free labeling regulations in place.
I applaud Jules Dowler Shepard for acting quickly to alert the gluten-free community to contact this manufacturer with concerns about labeling of their products. Food manufacturers must understand that the gluten-free diet is a medical treatment for people with Celiac disease, gluten-intolerance, dermatitis herpetiformis and wheat allergy.
Manufacturers who also process products made with wheat flour, as SOH does, must understand that they either need to take measures to prevent cross-contamination in their products marketed to the GF community or they need to label such products as manufactured in a facility that processes wheat as well. To list a product as "Made Without Gluten" is confusing and inappropriate. What GF consumers need to ask is - What is the ppm (parts per million) level of gluten in SOH products listed as "Made Without Gluten?"
A growing number of companies see green - as in big financial opportunities of marketing to people on gluten-free diets. It's our burden as gluten-free consumers to sift through the sea of new products coming to market to decide which are safe and which aren't.
The Snyder's of Hanover announcement that they will test and label their new pretzel product "Certified Gluten-Free" is good. Glutino Food Group also markets a popular gluten-free pretzel product widely distributed in the US.
If you have concerns about Snyder's of Hanover snack products listed as "Made Without Gluten" I recommend that you contact the company before buying these products for assurance that they are not cross-contaminated with gluten at levels in excess of the FDA proposed 20ppm for gluten-free labeling - even if these products are not labeled "gluten-free." You see how confusing the lack of a concise FDA labeling guideline is!
Bottom-line: There is one sure way to know that you are buying and eating products manufactured with less than 10ppm gluten - look for the GFCO "Certified Gluten-Free" logo on product packaging. It's always best to take the time and make the effort to contact manufacturers with questions and concerns about their products. Demand appropriate testing and labeling of gluten-free products!
Another way to make informed gluten-free food choices is to use Triumph Dining's publication, "The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide." I don't shop without it! If a product is manufactured in a facility where potential cross-contamination is an issue, it is noted with a symbol.
Bottommost-line: Snack on an apple, not pretzels and you don't have to worry about gluten-free labeling or how many ppm gluten you are exposing yourself or your children to!
- More About the Gluten-Free Certification Organization
- Certified Gluten-Free FAQ
- Jules Gluten Free
- Gluten-Free Mom
- Triumph Dining Gluten-Free Grocery Guide
- Glutino Gluten-Free Snack Products
- Snyder's of Hanover "Made Without Gluten" Product List
Questions for Snyder's of Hanover? Contact them at:
Snyder's of Hanover
P. O. Box 6917
1250 York St.
Hanover, PA 17331
717-632-7207 - Fax
Customer Service Ext. 1410