Tuesday, April 26, 2011

GFL Celebrates in May!

We are so excited about Celiac Disease Awareness Month 2011 and we plan to celebrate for the entire month. We are launching our new E-Newsletter, glutenfreeliving express, mid way through May, so we would like you to sign up today! The sign up is on the home page.

We are also hosting a fun giveaway in celebration of National Celiac Disease Awareness Month! Gluten-Free Living is excited to announce TGIGF Fridays (Thanks Goodness It’s Gluten-Free).

Each Friday in May (May 6, May 13, May 20 and May 27) we’ll be giving away one amazing TGIGF Friday Fun Basket brimming with a huge selection of gluten-free products AND a one year subscription to Gluten-Free Living magazine!

Bob's Red Mill, Bakery on Main, Ener-G, Enjoy Life Foods, Gerbs Pumpkin Seeds, Mary's Gone Crackers, Pamela's Products, PureFit, Schar, Spangler Candy, and Surf Sweets are among the many great gluten-free brands that will be filling our TGIGF Friday Fun Baskets.

There are two ways to win:

§ “Like” us on Facebook and complete this sentence: “I love Gluten-Free Living because…”
§ Follow us on Twitter and retweet our post (make sure to include the #TGIGFFriday hashtag)

Each Monday, we'll randomly select a winner and message you on Facebook or Twitter for your snail mail address so we can start your subscription to Gluten-Free Living and send you your TGIGF Friday Fun Basket.

One last thing, we will be posting a new article to our website each week during the month of May. These will be common sense guides for anyone to download and use. Hopefully you will find them informative, practical and helpful in living a gluten-free life.

Thanks for participating with GFL as we help build awareness for celiac disease and celebrate the month of May!

Kendall Egan

Friday, April 22, 2011

Taking the gluten-free cake

Gluten-Free Living has been covering news about proposed rules for using the gluten-free label on food for almost 10 years.

We've had at least one story on the subject in almost every issue we've published since Congress first started looking at changes to allergen labeling laws in 2001. I feel confident saying there is no other publication that has devoted as much space to this critical gluten-free topic.

We've had some exciting moments in the process -- finally announcing passage of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act,  attending Food and Drug Administration hearings to help shape the proposed gluten-free definition mandated by the act and writing about the details of the gluten-free proposal when it came out.

But gluten-free labeling is a complex issue as anyone who starts to look into it will quickly find. And the task of trying to explain all the ins and outs of the label, as well as the detailed tests and studies involved, sometimes strained our writing and reporting skills.

And all the delays by the FDA have certainly strained our editorial patience. We have probably been rebuffed by FDA spokespeople more than any other media outlet on this topic.

But we have stuck with it, propelled by the belief that good labels empower gluten-free consumers. Since the gluten-free diet is the only the treatment if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, the ability to figure out what's in your food is the gear turning the wheels of your healthy gluten-free life.

So with this background you can imagine our excitement over the 1in133 event literally being baked up on May 4 in Washington, DC. The plan is to make the biggest gluten-free cake ever to draw attention to the FDA's delinquency in finalizing gluten-free rules.

Finally something that's fun for us to cover, easy to understand, with great photo opportunities to boot.

We love the creative juices flowing when Jules Shepard and John Forberger cooked up this public relations confection to get the attention of the FDA, consumers, food makers, members of Congress and anyone else who can't resist the spectacle of a 14-foot-tall gluten-free cake.

Shepard, owner of the company that makes Jules Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour, says a spectacle is exactly what she and Forberger, a gluten-free triathlete active on Twitter,  thought was needed to draw attention to the foundering gluten-free label. Right now the only US law that governs gluten-free labeling  is a general requirement that a label has to be truthful and not misleading.

"We thought we needed to do something," Shepard says. "We thought we could build a cake that would be a spectacle, but we wanted to do it with a purpose."

With the help of Lee Tobin, who launched Whole Foods Gluten-Free Bakehouse and chef Aaron Flores, Shepherd and Forberger plan to bake the cake, then assemble and frost it at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in Washington, DC. When it's all finished, it will be served to those who have come to hear a plea that the FDA get a precise definition for gluten free on the books.

The FDA came up with a proposed definition in 2008 that spells out what a food company would have to do before it could use a gluten-free label, including proving that the food has less than 20 parts per million of gluten. But the definition has been stuck in limbo ever since.

Meanwhile, work on the cake is already underway. Tobin has been baking about 100 full sheet cakes -- that's literally a ton of cake made with 180 pounds of Jules flour Shepard says -- at the bakehouse in North Carolina. The cakes will be frozen and shipped to Washington, where plans for a support system are being worked out. A scaffold of ply-wood tiers and PVC pipes will underpin the cake, which has to be perfectly level to stay up. Massive pastry bags will be used to ice the cake with 700 pounds of frosting, though fancy decorations will be kept to a minimum since there is not a lot of time to put the cake together. Work will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. so the cake can be served at a 5 p.m. reception.

The enormity of that challenge really hit Shepard when she saw an episode of Food Network's "Last Cake Standing" where bakers had to build a seven-foot cake in 12 hours. The gluten-free cake will be twice as high and has to be put together in about half the time.

"A lot of drama will surround the building of the cake," she says.

But the real drama behind the event is the need for better labeling for the ever-growing number of people who follow the gluten-free diet. The cake is the draw, but action on the gluten-free label is the point, Shepard says.

There has been some early success in that regard. The FDA contacted 1in133 organizers to say a representative will attend the event. Alessio Fasano, MD, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research will speak. More than 2,500 people signed an online petition soon after the event was announced and more names are being added every day. In addition, at last count about 1,500 letters have been sent to the FDA and about 1,000 to the secretary of Health and Human Services.

Plans are being made to lobby members of Congress for improvements to allergen and gluten-free labeling during the day while the cake is being assembled. And funds are being raised to cover the cost of the event, which Shepard estimates will be about $10,000. Any additional money will be donated to the American Celiac Disease Alliance, an advocacy group. You can still donate, sign the petition or send a letter on the 1in133 website.

Gluten-Free Living and a number of other gluten-free businesses and individuals are actively supporting 1in133. We are hoping this event will really take the cake when it comes to improving gluten-free labeling.

Amy Ratner

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gluten-Free Pancakes

This morning I nearly missed an important meeting because I was making pancakes! It is spring break so our mornings have been nice and lazy. Luckily, I checked my blackberry fifteen minutes before the meeting was supposed to start and quickly responded that I was available.

I did have to wash the maple syrup off my hands and waddle upstairs to my office after stuffing my face with a stack of delicious gluten-free pancakes before settling in to discuss some upcoming features here at Gluten-Free Living (stay tuned…exciting stuff on the horizon).

During busy school mornings I tend to forget things like pancakes as a breakfast option, my kids leave the house by 7:30 am. Often during the school week, pancakes become a quick dinner option if we have an evening filled with practices or events. There is a huge selection of gluten-free pancake mixes and all of them are quick and easy to make. The good news is that most of them are so delicious that everyone eats the gluten-free variety so I don’t have to dirty two bowls with a GF and a non GF batter.

I like my pancakes with blueberries and real maple syrup. One son likes chocolate chips and no maple syrup. My celiac drowns his pancakes in maple syrup. One daughter likes bananas in her pancakes and the last daughter will go with the flow on whatever is being served. That customization is a very nice feature of pancakes.

What I should do during the school year is make the batter the night before and just have the add-ins ready to go. In the morning I could put the batter on the counter, fire up the burners and get the double burner griddle pan hot and ready. I can get eight pancakes going and then each kid could personalize with fruit or chocolate chips before the pancakes get flipped.

If I could just fix the pancake to maple syrup ratio for my celiac, I would consider this a viable and healthy breakfast option on a weekly basis!

Kendall Egan

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

False gluten-free claims – Go straight to jail

I don't know what in the cosmos conspired to bring an obviously unbalanced and seemingly evil guy and the gluten-free world onto the same path, but I think it's a really unusual situation. I’m talking about the story out of Durham, North Carolina in which a vendor re-packaged and sold wheat bread as gluten-free. Witnesses also said Paul Evan Seelig, 48, owner of Great Specialty Bread Co.,told customers he himself had celiac disease. The judge sentenced him to 9-11 years in jail and also ordered a mental evaluation as well as testing to see if he really has celiac disease.

This is a story that easily strikes fear in any gluten-free heart, but I think we need to take it for what it is - something really, really weird that is unlikely to happen again.

The one good thing that could come out of this would be if it helps move the FDA to legally define what gluten-free means on a food label. Right now the only thing the FDA says is that processors can't knowingly label foods as not containing something they do contain (or vice versa). Granted that legality is indirectly what caused Seelig to be convicted, but it is thin protection for the growing and needy gluten-free population.

If the FDA would just do what they were supposed to do in 2008 and define gluten free, we would all be better off. The definition would mean that if a product is labeled gluten-free, it must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten (the amount currently under consideration). Then a gluten-free label would mean the processor has tested the item and found it to contain less than 20 ppm of gluten.

Those of you who are new to labeling matters may wonder why a gluten-free label would be fine on items that might contain up to 20 ppm of gluten. That's because we live in a real world where it is impossible to make an item that contains zero gluten. Don't let anyone tell you differently and above all, don't despair. This has been true from the beginning of time and results in the ability to live healthy gluten-free lives.

Another aspect to remember is that a product that tests to less than 20 ppm of gluten actually contains somewhere between zero and 19 ppm of gluten. Four years ago when the FDA proposed 20 ppm as the cut-off amount, testing at lower levels was not considereed accurate.

These days, tests can go lower than 20 ppm of gluten and it seems many processors who are currently testing use one designed to test for 10 ppm of gluten not only because they can, but also to make sure they are well below the 20 ppm cutoff. Doctors assure us that when we eat foods with this potential amount of gluten, we stay healthy. And since scientific research has not identified a medical reason to go lower, the FDA seems to believe that defining gluten free at a lesser number would put an unnecessary burden on food makers.

With these thoughts in mind, let’s forget Seelig, hope his time in prison benefits everyone, including Seelig himself, and get behind the effort to encourage the FDA to get off the dime and define what gluten free should mean on a food label. Go to
1in133.org for information on that effort.