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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!

Suggested Reading

Questions for Snyder's of Hanover? Contact them at:

Snyder's of Hanover
P. O. Box 6917
1250 York St.
Hanover, PA 17331
717-632-4477
800-233-7125
717-632-7207 - Fax
Customer Service Ext. 1410
consumeraffairs@snyders-han.com

Comments

April 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm
(1) Jeff says:

I love how you ended this story…with the apple example. So much furor has been made about…PRETZELS, as if they are oxygen or some other essential element. Most of the food we need as humans is gluten free…some GFers forget that in their fervor to “find all the gluten-free products” they can (you’ve seen then at the food fairs, packing their bags, as if going to a deserted island…with pre-packaged cakes and cookies and breads and what-not).

What’s troubling about Snyder’s false start is the cavalier attitude from on-high within their management. And their primary motivation for entering the GF fray…profit. Nothing wrong with profit, but as discerning consumers, we MUST demand an intimate understanding of our needs from those in whom we place our medical trust. GFCO certification or not, given Snyder’s lack of TRUE understanding (and what’s to say they’ll adhere to GFCO guidelines once the auditors leave), I’m not willing to jeopardize my health and the safety of those in my care to a PRETZEL (of all things) that may be tainted. And, why, again, would GFCO require a company to NOT say they’re going through the certification process (as their CEO said was the case…prompting their floundering when the story first broke)? If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Someone please pass me an apple. Hello…anyone from the FDA out there?

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