Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gluten-free Dunkin’ Donuts debate

When Dunkin' Donuts announced it was planning to roll out a gluten-free donut and muffin nationwide, we posted the news on our Facebook page.
Gluten-free consumers started responding immediately. Many rejoiced. Others paused to voice some concern about cross-contamination issues. And some complained that another unhealthy product was making its way into the gluten-free market place.

Here are some examples of what they said:

"Being from the northeast, aka the land of Dunkin, this is excellent news. Now kids and grownups near DD can more easily participate in school and office donut days."

"As the mother of a gluten sensitive child, this is excellent news! We don't often eat donuts but it is great that Eva won't have to feel deprived if we do!"

"Are they going to be kept in the wrappers until the customer consumes them? Cross contamination is a huge issue with places that claim to have gluten free products!"

"Cross contamination?"

"I wish people could understand to truly live a healthy life you need to give up those foods that are in the end going to just make you fat and cause different diseases."

"Sad part is, the media is calling these products "healthy." It may be safe for us celiacs, but it is nowhere near healthy."

The varied reactions don't surprise me. Whenever a mainstream company adds a gluten-free product, the ever-growing gluten-free consumer base demonstrates just how diverse it really is.

I suspect you would put yourself roughly in one of the groups above. I know I do.

Overall I am glad to have mainstream companies provide options for gluten-free customers. Part of the reason is the number of years my family has been contending with the gluten-free diet. Twenty to be exact. For much of that time there seemed no hope you'd ever be debating whether a gluten-free donut at Dunkin' was a good thing or not. You expected that the coffee was all that would ever be safe.

When you live with very few choices for a very long time I think you come to appreciate them more.

Like many in the United States, we have a Dunkin’ Donuts shop right around the corner. We go there every once in awhile, though not enough to pose a health risk to those in the family who are not gluten free. Now my daughter, who has celiac disease, can join us and have something to eat. I don't think she'll overdo it, just as other family members have not.

But she no longer has to eat something before we go or carry along something from home. She can still just have coffee if she'd like. The difference is she gets to choose just like everyone else.

In part that's possible because Dunkin' Donuts has taken steps to prevent the cross contamination that is a legitimate worry for those who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance. The company, which has been test marketing the gluten-free options for a few months, is offering products that are prepared in a dedicated facility and packaged to protect their gluten-free integrity. (We’ll have more details on the gluten-free products in a story in the Sept./Oct. issue of Gluten-Free Living.)

So count me in the column of those doing a little happy dance over the Dunkin' Donut news. I respect anyone who swears they will never eat a gluten-free Dunkin' donut or muffin because it's unhealthy. You have the right to make that choice. And now gluten-free men and women who would occasionally like to enjoy a donut and coffee for a morning meeting or a breakfast date, and the children who’d like to stop for a donut and milk, have a choice too.

Amy Ratner

Monday, June 10, 2013

How do you prefer to shop for gluten-free groceries?

There's no doubt that gluten-free items are getting easier to find in mainstream

Some have created dedicated gluten-free sections or include gluten-free foods in a designated natural or health food department in the store. Others spread the gluten-free products throughout the store, for example putting gluten-free pasta on the shelves where "regular" pasta is stocked.

In some supermarkets, it's a hybrid system, with specialty brands in the reserved gluten-free spot and mainstream brands in the regular aisles. So while you might find Kinnikinnick S'moreables with other gluten-free products, you'll find Chex gluten-free cereals in the same aisle as gluten-containing Cheerios.

I recently listened to a webinar that touched on approaches for retailers interested in stocking gluten-free products. One of the presenters said she thought integration of gluten-free products in the regular aisles is the wave of the future.

And it got me thinking about gluten-free consumers' shopping preferences.

I personally prefer a specialty section, though I have no problem picking up the mainstream items as I go through the rest of the store. The two supermarkets closest to my home, Wegmans and Giant, both do it this way.

I know just where the specialty area is, and I can easily find products I buy all the time. I also quickly notice new products  when they are added to the shelves. In both stores, a freezer section that carries gluten-free foods is included in the specialty area even though it's far from the regular freezer aisles.

 If I only need specific gluten-free items - a gluten-free baguette and pasta for dinner, bagels for the next morning and crackers for a snack, I can go to one place, gather them quickly and make a quick get-away. (I admit the supermarket is not my favorite place to spend a lot of time.)

When I am doing a larger weekly shop and go through all the aisles, I pick up other gluten-free products as I go. But sometimes a new product will be added and get lost in the crowd of gluten-containing items. If I, and other shoppers, can't readily find it, it's usually not long before the store decides it's not really a big seller. Then it's gone for good.

I think it's especially hard to find frozen foods when they are added to the mainstream freezer case. Maybe it's all that door banging and cold air escaping that causes me to rush and miss things. Giant carried gluten-free meatballs for months before I ever found them.

Wegmans has long been known for its attention to gluten-free shoppers and those who have the regional supermarket nearby usually feel lucky. The gluten-free section, located in the store's Nature's Marketplace, is big and well stocked. You can use coupons issued for products from the marketplace for any gluten-free item.

Wegmans also has an extensive line of store brand products that are clearly marked with a "G" for gluten-free which it sells in the regular aisles. Many of these are non-perishable items like Wegmans Asian Classics sauces, but it also includes things like ice cream and potato chips. The symbol makes it easy to identify gluten-free items and reduces the need to rely on very close label reading of ingredients.

Some stories like Giant have shelf tags that alert you to gluten-free products and while these can work well, you have to make sure that the product you pick up is the one really intended to be flagged by the tag. Shoppers have been know to move things around on the shelves.

And you won't find tags for naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables and plain meats, which can lead those new to the gluten-free diet to wonder if that means these items are not gluten free. (They are.)

Some stores purposefully do not have a dedicated gluten-free section and stock all of their gluten-free products throughout the regular aisles. Whole Foods, a  natural and organic food store chain, previously handled gluten-free items this way, but now almost all locations offer both a gluten-free section and gluten-free products spread throughout the store.

I am interested in what readers think. Let me know what system you like best and why. What is the best gluten-free feature of the store where you shop regularly?

Even as I type this I am mindful that in some places, none of these options exist and it's still hard to find gluten-free foods without having to travel far or order them online. I hope that as the gluten-free market grows and more food stores realize gluten-free shoppers are important consumers this will change.

Amy Ratner

Gluten-free 20-somethings hit the blog scene

Through blogs and social media, gluten-free 20-somethings are navigating the complicated world of jobs, school, roommates and dating.

Graduate student Candice of embracegfree.com

Young bloggers bring their fresh perspectives to the lifestyle, providing insight on the trials and triumphs of getting out in the world gluten free. Some bloggers share recipes and restaurant reviews, while others use their blogs as platforms for social change. Still others offer a more artistic, personal account of their experience, like gluten-free travel and dating mishaps. From east coast to west, Milwaukee to San Diego, these young writers are living life to the fullest.

Below, we’ve put together a list of 14 young, gluten-free bloggers you should tweet, follow and friend.

And in the July/August issue of Gluten-Free Living, you’ll find an in-depth look at the way 20-somethings are navigating their young adult lives, including some who use the web to dish about their gluten-free lifestyles.

Embrace G-Free
Graduate student Candice Clifford shares positive energy, empowerment and resources through her posts and poems.

Lindsey Schnitt, whose friends call her “the schnittuation,” blogs about food, restaurants and events.

The Hamroff sisters of celiacsisters.net
Celiac Sisters
Samantha and Brooke Hamroff, sisters diagnosed when they were 16, list their favorite eateries and share other news.

G-Free Laura
Laura Hanley posts advice, product reviews and delicious recipes.

Gluten Freeways
Stephen, a young foodie who’s never let the gluten-free diet stop him from eating out, focuses on restaurants in San Diego, where he lives, and those he visits in his travels. Every blog ends with “Do you love it or do you love it?” That says something about his attitude.

CC Gluten Freed
CC Bonaduce empowers readers with her social and political activism, encouraging gluten-free communities throughout the country.
Sprinkles & Allergies
Bethany Trainor tackles her multiple food allergies with mouth-watering recipes and encouragement for readers.

Celiac Teen
Since the age of 15, Lauren McMillan has blogged about how she “let go of the gluten” in her journey with celiac disease.

College Student with Celiac
College undergraduate Chynna Foucek posts friendly anecdotes and recipes. collegestudentwithceliac.wordpress.com

Jenny of creativecookinggf.wordpress.com
Creative Cooking Gluten Free
Culinary student Jenny Manseau posts recipes and reviews products.

Gluten Free? Gimme Three!
Anna Luke catalogs the ups and downs of living gluten free and reports the latest restaurant news in Washington D.C.

Gluten Free Betsy
Chicago’s go-to girl on all things gluten free, Betsy Thompson, provides advice on dining out and products.

Celiac in the City
Milwaukee-based Sarah Nielsen blogs weekly photos of her dining, cooking and travel adventures.

Celiac Scoop
A blogger passionate about nutrition, Christie Bessinger shares easy recipes and health tips based on her experiences.

Hillary Casavant

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A pill to treat celiac disease is no longer a pipe dream

We're moving closer to a pill to treat cd

We all go through stages of transition after a diagnosis of celiac disease.

For most, the first includes lots of confusion, worry and fear that eating will never be the same. Then good health returns and, eventually, we get to the point where we feel we're controlling the disease instead of it controlling us. Mainly that's because we get a handle on the gluten-free diet and once we conquer that we feel like we've largely conquered the disease.

Now, Alice Bast, president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, is pushing us to go one step further. She's urging us to really understand what celiac disease is and how it works.

"For most of us, knowing what to eat, what to avoid and which questions to ask when dining out are enough to get by," Bast says. "Words like "t-cells" and "zonulin" aren't part of our everyday conversation, and they certainly don't help when trying to decode a nutrition label."

The NFCA, a Philadelphia-based patient advocacy group, is hosting a free webinar June 11 to help patients understand how celiac disease works and what role medications to treat it are likely to play in the future.

"It's more critical now than ever to know and understand how celiac disease works," Bast explains. "We are on the cusp of a pharmaceutical revolution in celiac disease treatment. A vaccine or pill is no longer a pipe dream. It's a very real possibility."

The webinar, Celiac Disease: Immunology 101 and the Drug Development Process, will touch on the immunological process of celiac disease as well as the process of drug development and approval.

It will be conducted by Francisco Leon, MD, vice president of immunology translational medicine, and Ken Kilgore, PhD, director of immuno-pharmacology, at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson.

They will review existing research to explain why scientists are looking into the development of a pill or vaccine.*

Bast says it's a chance to learn about things that aren't covered in a typical appointment with your doctor or dietitian.

If you've ever wondered about the role patients play in clinical trials for a drug or the steps needed for Food and Drug Administration approval of one, you should tune in.

You can register here. There's also information on how to listen to the webinar after the fact if you can't do so live.

While not everyone is anxious to take a pill to treat celiac disease, knowledge has always been the most powerful tool in combating its symptoms and long-term consequences.  Expanding your understanding of new issues that will certainly affect how you live your gluten-free life is always a good idea.

So take this opportunity to find out about the science behind celiac disease and the steps that are being take to develop new treatments for it.

Amy Ratner
*This is an update to clarify information previously provided by the NFCA.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer Salads…

Deck Garden

Summer has instantly arrived over the past couple of days in the northeast!  The past two days have been a triple H kind of a day, hazy, hot and humid.  Which makes the article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal so perfect, Sarabeth Levine described her ideal summer salads.

I love salads and all the different dressings available to me on a gluten-free diet!  But, what I love most of all is growing my own salad.  The sunniest spot in my yard happens to be my deck and this is where I have all of my containers.  I planted the lettuce and cherry tomatoes last weekend.  These are both low risk, high yielding options for a brown thumb gardener like me.  I even bought a couple of strawberry plants for fun because they grow like absolute weeds and figure I would have a really difficult time killing them.

oregano, tarragon, thyme on 3/30
Last year I bought a bunch of herbs and just kept them in their little starter pots.  I did not know that most herbs were perennials until a summer dinner party when the hostess showed me her herb garden and said she had planted it six years ago.  She advised me to throw the herbs into a real pot with some good soil and then see what happened in the spring.

At the end of March, when we started doing some spring cleaning, I grabbed the pots that I had put on the side of the house and lifted the collection of dead leaves that had gathered on top to throw into the green waste bags.   I was so surprised to see all of these little green leaves pushing up through the soil!

Mint 3/30
Mint, tarragon, thyme, oregano and rosemary had all started growing anew!  Two months later, the herbs are absolutely flourishing.   As I wait for my lettuce and tomatoes to grow, the Wall Street Journal Summer Salad article had some great dressing ideas using these herbs.  One was to make a blender dressing using fresh tarragon is you are adding salmon or chicken to the salad.  For a basic oil and vinegar, throw some basil, parsley and oregano into the blender.  I just planted the parsley and basil so I will have to wait a week or two for that dressing.

For bitter greens, like arugula, lemon juice and a lighter oil such as canola oil, whisked together with a little salt and pepper is a nice combination.
My biggest problem with salads is that only one of four of my kids would be happy to see a big chopped salad with some chicken or fish on top.  For that solution, I will turn to other articles on advice for getting picky tweens and teens to eat vegetables.

Kendall Egan

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shopping at HomeGoods

What do you do when the weather is murky on the weekend? If you can’t hit the beach, you may as well hit the stores. 

I have my “go-to” place when I don’t really want to spend a lot of money, but I want a little pick me up purchase and that place is HomeGoods.  At the very minimum, I am going to come away with a gluten-free mix from a company that I might have seen at a food show or discover something new all together.

But, this weekend, the item that had me swooning with happiness was a lime green ceramic fry pan for $14.99.  Actually, it is more avocado than lime…I swear my parents had a refrigerator the exact same color.  It doesn’t matter, I have used it twice since I purchased it and I love it.
In my line of work, I read many health and wellness or nutrition and cooking publications just to know what people are studying, or curious about, and non-stick Teflon pans seem to come up in a lot of forums.  The ceramic pan is typically offered up as a non-stick alternative so I have wanted to try one!

I made gluten-free pancakes and sautéed mushrooms this weekend, both came out perfectly.  While my bill was slightly larger than the $14.99 due to a selection of really great gluten-free mixes, I am still really pleased with my pick me up purchase.  Nothing chases rain and clouds away, like opening up a cupboard and seeing a pop of green among the jumbled pots and pans.  If I have to cook, I may as well have a pot that makes me smile.

Kendall Egan

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pillsbury introduces gluten-free pizza, pie & cookie dough

If you haven’t been feeling friendly toward the Pillsbury Doughboy since going gluten free, it might be time to re-think your relationship.

Pillsbury, a bastion of gluten-filled refrigerated tubes of bread, biscuits and cookies, has moved into the gluten-free market.

The brand, which is owned by General Mills, recently announced a new line of gluten-free products featuring tubs of pizza, pastry and chocolate chip cookie dough. The products will be available nationwide this summer and in most major supermarkets by August. You’ll be able to find the dough tubs in the refrigerated aisle alongside other Pillsbury products.

“Several members of the General Mills family either have celiac disease themselves or have a close friend or relative who does,” said Rachel Dickens, Pillsbury media relations representative. “Hearing our employees’ and consumers’ stories brought to life an untapped need for delicious gluten-free products and prompted us to find a solution.”

The pie and pastry dough is made with gluten-free starches and rice and sorghum flours and is egg and dairy free. One serving contains 250 calories.

The thin crust pizza dough, made with tapioca starch, whole sorghum, whole millet and rice flours, contains egg but is dairy-free and 170 calories per serving.

The chocolate chip cookie dough is made with a brown sugar and rice flour base and contains eggs, soy and dairy. One cookie is 110 calories.

Get the full ingredient list and nutrition information on the General Mills website.

General Mills uses “stringent” programs to prevent the risk of cross-contamination, and has taken “specific steps to ensure that the process and equipment used does not provide any opportunity for gluten or gluten-containing ingredients to get into its products,” according to a Pillsbury spokesperson.


Hillary Casavant

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The top 5 gluten-free changes I'd like to see

As Celiac Disease Awareness Month started yesterday, I asked Gluten-Free Living's  Facebook and Twitter followers to name the one thing they'd like to see change as a result of growing awareness of everything gluten free.

Today, I'm sharing a list of my top five changes.

1. FDA approval of a real definition for the gluten-free label. Gluten-Free Living has been covering this topic for so long my children have graduated from high school, college and law school since it all started. We keep hearing approval is just around the corner. It's time to just get it done.

2. A commitment by restaurants to take gluten cross-contamination issues as seriously as they are supposed to take sanitary requirements in their kitchens. We all know this can be complicated, but there are ways to do it properly and celiac disease support groups with programs to help. Gluten-free customers would have a lot more faith in gluten-free menus if they did not have to grill their server about cross-contamination.

3. A push for healthier gluten-free specialty items. Gluten-Free Living started writing about this topic a number of years ago with a story about gluten-free whole grains, and we've been following it since. Some gluten-free companies deserve credit for choosing healthier ingredients, but we still see a lot of nutritionally devoid starches as the main ingredient.

4. A choice by mainstream food companies to switch to gluten-free ingredients in foods that contain one small thing that is not gluten free. I am thinking of foods that we could all eat if it weren't for some minute amount of malt flavoring or soy sauce made with wheat. It makes business sense because gluten-free consumers are a growing group. If General Mills can do it with most varieties of Chex cereal other companies of all types should be able to do it too.

5. A move to convince everyone that they should rule out celiac disease before going on a gluten-free diet. I know physicians don't always cooperate, but it's your health and you should insist on testing if you have celiac disease symptoms. Some people question why a diagnosis is necessary if going gluten-free on your own makes you feel better. There are two reasons, one more altruistic than the other.

We'll always struggle to improve rates of diagnosis of celiac disease as long as there are those who've misdiagnosed themselves as gluten intolerant. That number matters when it comes to the four points above. It also influences how much research goes into better understanding of both celiac disease and gluten intolerance, including the important studies looking for the bio-markers for gluten intolerance. We are all in the gluten-free diet together even if it's for different reasons.

On an individual level, there are some real differences between the two conditions, and you can best manage your health if you know where you really fall on the spectrum of conditions triggered by gluten. If it turns out you don't have celiac disease and you feel better on the gluten-free diet, no one can quarrel with your decision to follow it. Gluten intolerance is now a recognized medical condition and should be respected as such. But the first step is ruling out celiac disease.

So that's my list. Feel free to share yours.

Amy Ratner

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gluten-Free Goody Bag!

The Gluten-Free Living Team is conducting a reader survey right now so that we can learn as much as possible about our readers!  What are your interests?  What editorial content appeals to you?  Do you use our website and/or our social media platforms?

Your answers will really help the editorial staff at Gluten-Free Living determine the content we provide for you in future issues.  As a thank you, we are entering our survey participants into a drawing for a Gluten-Free Goody Bag! 

Take our survey today! Click Here.

A few of our advertisers have supplied some GF treats for 10 lucky prize winners.

 123 Gluten Free Delightfully Gratifying Poundcake-this is the newest mix available which will allow the user to add their own choice of sweetener.

Bob’s Red Mill Muesli-a hearty and healthy GF breakfast option. A great start to the day with yogurt and fruit.

DeLallo GF Orzo-a wonderfully versatile pasta for gluten-free pasta dishes!

Glutenfreeda Instant Oatmeal-Many varieties available including Cranberry Cinnamon with flax, Apple Cinnamon with Flax, Strawberries and Brown Sugar and Maple Raisin with Flax

Glutino Toaster Pastries-launched with great fan appreciation at Expo West in strawberry and apple cinnamon!

NoGii Chocolate Mint Protein Bar-terrific pre-workout meal with a Thin Mint taste.

No Opportunity Wasted (NOW) Honeycomb with Chia & Raisin Energy Bar-Is it an energy bar or a tasty dessert? 
Schar...not sure quite yet what will be in the bag but they will have something tempting!
Again, please take our quick survey and ten lucky people will have a box of gluten-free goodies arrive on their doorstep! Click here for survey link.

The Gluten-Free Living Team!

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Gluten-Free Pizza in Wegmans Market Cafe

Wegmans has come up with an innovative way to serve safe gluten-free pizza. It takes advantage of Wegmans combination of supermarket and cafe service.

Wegmans' Market Cafe pizza shop is stocking Conte's Bake in the Bag pizza in its freezer so gluten-free customers can order a pie on the spot or call in for pick up. The pizza is cooked is a sealed bag so cross-contamination isn't a worry.

In an interesting twist, the pizza is also available in the freezer in the Nature's Market Place, a section of the supermarket where most gluten-free items are sold. A customer can purchase the pizza from the market and get it baked in the pizza shop or take it home to bake.

You only pay for the cost of the pizza no matter which way you choose.

Trish Kazacos, a registered dietitian who is Wegmans nutritionist and is gluten free herself, said offering gluten-free pizza is a joint venture between the cafe and market place. "It gives everyone lots of flexibility," she said.

As it launches, the pizza will be available in the 40 of Wegmans 81 stores in six East Coast states. Some cafes have an oven with an open flame and the bagged pizza can't be cooked in them. A list of stores where it will be available will be posted soon on Wegmans Fresh Stories blog.

Conte's pizza comes in three flavors, cheese, pepperoni and margherita, but availability will vary, with some stores only carrying two until the program gets fully underway. It's a good idea to call ahead to check.

The system addresses two  problems that can come up when serving gluten-free pizza along with regular pizza - cross contamination and reliable availability. Conte's bagged pizza is also sold at Chuck E. Cheese's pizza locations throughout the U.S.

When it comes to preparing gluten-free pizza in shared pizza shop, this product has a lot in the bag. And it's nice to see restaurants using it to make gluten-free pizza available.

Amy Ratner

Monday, April 8, 2013

Two Important Gluten-Free Studies You Can Help With

You can help the gluten-free community by taking part in two important surveys.

The first was set up by Tricia Thompson, a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease, and Brian Jackson, PhD of Dartmouth College, to get some real numbers on how much rice gluten-free consumers eat.

Concerns about arsenic in rice have been raised by Consumer Reports. In a recent story, the magazine said it found "worrisome levels" of arsenic in many rice samples tested.

Since those who follow the gluten-free diet typically eat a wide variety of products made with rice and rice flour, it seems they could face a greater risk of being exposed to harmful levels of arsenic. Aside from rice itself, rice flour  and starch is found in products as varied as cereal, pasta, bread, crackers, cookies and rice drinks, often as a primary ingredient.

So far gluten-free consumers have been advised it's not necessary to avoid rice, but to eat a diet that includes a wide range of gluten-free grains. Brown rice is a gluten-free whole grain that has been encouraged as a healthy addition to the gluten-free diet. But it was cited as being likely to contain more arsenic than white rice . Some experts worry that fear of arsenic will drive people away from this grain, choosing nutritionally devoid gluten-free flours and starches instead.

While the assumption is that gluten-free consumers face greater risks, there is little data on rice consumption. The survey is designed to help correct that. It's open to adults who have been diagnosed with celiac disease. You can access it here. You have until April 24 to fill it out.

The second survey is being done jointly by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and the Jefferson Celiac Center in Philadelphia. It's designed to find out what doctors tell their celiac disease patients about having family members tested.  The study investigators hope to use this information to improve screening strategies for celiac disease.
You can access it here.

These are two simple steps you can take to improve the gluten-free world for yourself and others.

Amy Ratner

Is the long gluten-free wait nearly over?

It seems gluten-free labeling rules may finally be put into place by early summer.

The Food and Drug Administration at the end of February sent the rules to the White House Office of Management and Budget. This is the last step in the regulatory approval process, according to the American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA).

The ACDA says the budget office attempts to complete review of rules within 90 days, meaning a final gluten-free definition could be ready in early June. That’s a not a certainty – we’ve learned nothing is when it comes to gluten-free labeling – but the ACDA is hopeful a decision will fall in that timeframe.

Some gluten-free advocates are still leaving nothing to chance, including Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Congresswoman who authored the original bill calling for gluten-free labeling, and Alessio Fasano, MD, a celiac disease expert and director of the Center for Celiac Research at Mass General Hospital for Children. The pair co-wrote a blog in the Huffington Post last week pushing for federal standards for a gluten-free products.

"Until there are proper food labeling regulations for gluten-free products, people with celiac disease are at the mercy of unregulated food manufacturers to set the exposure level to gluten. This is like allowing a stranger to determine the insulin dose that a person with diabetes receives without knowing anything about their individual needs," they wrote. 

If it’s been so long since the rules were proposed that you’ve forgotten what they call for, here’s a quick recap.

Foods labeled “gluten free” could not contain wheat, barley or rye. Ingredients made from these grains would be largely prohibited, but there is allowance for some that have been processed to remove gluten protein. Oats would not be allowed unless they are specialty gluten-free oats grown and handled to prevent cross-contamination.

Foods labeled gluten free would have to test to less than 20 parts per million of gluten, a standard considered safe by many celiac disease experts and adopted in other countries around the world. The tests would measure gluten from any source, including cross-contamination. Currently a gluten-free label can be used on a food that does not include gluten in the ingredients, but cross-contamination does not have to be taken into account. Gluten-free labeling would continue to be voluntary.

The rules would apply to foods regulated by the FDA, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which oversee meat, poultry and eggs and alcoholic beverages, respectively, have said they will also apply FDA standards once the a gluten-free definition is approved.

It’s not clear whether the proposed rules and the final rules will be identical. In particular, tests for gluten have improved since the proposal was made, and there may be some adjustment in that area.

The rules are edging close to being five years late in coming. So while we are hopeful, as always, we’re also cautious. We’ll keep you up to date on the latest news in print and online.

Amy Ratner


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gluten-Free Tax Break

A gluten-free lifestyle is not always friendly to your bank account. But if you have celiac disease and fairly high medical expenses you may be able to take advantage of some gluten-free tax deductions.

If it’s too late to meet the paperwork requirements this year and you think you might qualify, it’s never too early to begin preparing for next year.

The IRS allows individuals with celiac disease to deduct the cost difference between gluten-free food and its mainstream equivalent. For instance, if you spend $5 on gluten-free bread, and gluten-containing bread costs $2, you can deduct the difference, $3, as a medical expense on your taxes. You can also deduct the entire cost of special items needed for gluten-free cooking, for example xanthan gum and quinoa flour; the cost of transportation to and from the grocery store for gluten-free purchases; and shipping costs for gluten-free food delivery.  File all of these deductions on schedule A of your 1040 tax form.

However,  before you can qualify your medical expenses have to exceed a specified threshold.  For 2012 you can deduct only the part of your medical expenses that exceeds 7.5 % of your adjusted gross income. Beginning in 2013 it will increase to 10% of your adjusted gross income (7.5% if you are over the age of 65).
 It can be difficult to meet the threshold especially if insurance covers most of your medical costs, but if medical expenses are high in a given year it can be worth the effort.

Be prepared with some key documents if you decide to file these deductions:

1. A documented diagnosis of celiac disease from your doctor and a prescription to follow a gluten-free diet. The tax break does not cover those with gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity.

2. Receipts for every specialty food purchase made throughout the year, for example gluten-free crackers or flour. Naturally gluten-free foods such as produce and meat are not covered. You should also keep receipts for the shipping costs of gluten-free products delivered to your home.

3. An Excel spreadsheet that documents the price of each gluten-free item you purchased, the price of its non-gluten-free equivalent, and the difference between these two numbers. You’ll report the difference on your tax returns.

4. A log of the mileage to and from grocery stores for gluten-free purchases. Be sure to look up the year’s mileage rate and also keep track of any tolls and parking fees.

 5. A record of other medical expenses like co-pays and doctor-prescribed supplements not covered by insurance.

 While it’s a time-consuming to keep track of receipts and calculate the difference between gluten-free and gluten-containing equivalents, the tax deduction can be valuable in years when you have high medical expenses.
Consult a tax professional if you think it applies to you.

Hillary Casavant

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shop for Gluten-Free Passover Goods!

Just a Friday "micro" blog!  Time to stock up on gluten-free Matzo Crackers.  This is only one brand, but they are the closest thing to a good, old fashioned "Saltine" I have ever tasted.  They are, of course, delicious for their real purpose, a matzo cracker, for Passover celebrations but I just eat these non-stop during the season.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

“Best of the West

This year I was bowled over by the depth and breadth of gluten-free food introduced at Expo West.  It would be hard to mention everything, but I want to whet your appetite with a few of the things I tasted.

Jovial (www.jovialfoods.com) introduced a new tagliatelle noodle with egg in the pasta. Pappardelle’s (www.pappredellespasta.com) introduced some new flavors, sweet potato and dark chocolate, and a chipotle lime orzo style pasta.  RP’s Pasta (www.rpspasta.com) featured fresh GF Lasagna Sheets.  Le Veneziane has microwave pasta dishes…penne al pomodoro e basilico that is ready in nine minutes (www.quattrobimbi.com).

San J introduced a new Mongolian Beef stir fry & Marinade (www.san-j.com) and Saffron Road burst on to the scene with a bevy of simmer sauces (www.americanhalal.com).

Kinnikinnick has a blueberry bagel made the old fashioned way, boiled first and then baked.  It really bursts with blueberry flavor (www.kinnikinnick.com).   Bakery on Main introduced two new instant oatmeal flavors, Blueberry Scone and Carrot Cake (www.bakeryonmain.com) and Glutenfreeda also introduced portable instant oatmeal in a cup (www.glutenfreeda.com).  I tasted the Komplete Meal Replacement Shakes packed with 21 superfoods and the Jav ‘a Latte was my favorite (www.katefarms.com).

So much good stuff, it is hard to know what to report.  Ener-G showcased Garlic Pretzels that were stuffed with garlic goodness, thank goodness for the post snacking breath mints (www.ener-g.com).  Simple Squares Organic Snack Bar, once again I loved the coffee bar. (www.simplesquares.com). Mary’s Gone Crackers introduced a new graham cracker that is coming to stores soon (www.marysgonecrackers.com).  Lucy’s introduced Combo Snack & Go packs and a new pumpkin cookie (www.drlucys.com)

Easy-Peasy GF Dinner ideas:
Starfish Seafood introduced a new line of gluten-free fish sticks and a parmesan encrusted cod filet (www.star-fish.com).   Glutenfreeda also launched a Pocket Sandwich; I tried the Hickory Smoked Ham and Cheese (www.glutenfreeda.com), my always hungry, always growing 13 year old son is going to be so happy when I buy these.  Second Helping featured Corn Puppies; gluten-free batter dipped cocktail size franks (www.secondhelping.com), really a great idea and totally delicious.   If you prefer a bun for your franks, Schar launched hot dog rolls (www.schar.com).

King Arthur Flour introduced its new all purpose baking mix (www.kingarthurflour.com) and Pamela’s had their Artisan Flour Blend (www.pamelasproducts.com).  123 Gluten-Free showcased their sugar free Pound cake Mix (www.123.glutenfree.com) which is coming to stores soon.  This adds to their line of sugar free mixes so the consumer may choose the sweetener!

What’s the category?
For those of you who make a green bean casserole for Thanksgiving and miss those crunchy onions, Brad’s Raw Foods introduced Brad’s Raw Onion Rings in a variety of flavors…another time I was thankful for breath mints!  (www.bradsrawfoods.com)
Numi’s introduced Savory Teas, I tried the Tomato Mint and I have to say this is a great idea as something warm and soothing without caffeine to get through a long winter’s afternoon. (www.numitea.com)

Mr. Dewie’s Almond Milk frozen dessert (www.mrdewies.com) was my absolute favorite thing…right now this is only available in the Bay Area of California, you lucky Californians!  Oh.My.Gosh….this is a creamy “iced almond milk” frozen dessert that I could easily sit down with a pint and eat the whole thing.  Hopefully store distributors agreed with me….

I have stacks of sell sheets for new gluten-free items like Evol Burritos and Pure Bars that I haven’t even mentioned!  There was Wallaby Yogurt, Glutino Pop Tarts, Hope Hummus in single serve squeeze tubs, Lotus Foods exotic rice and so much more…

As more and more people care about what they eat, gluten-free or just healthier, these new businesses will grow and I intend to look for them, buy them and vote for my food preferences at the cash register.

Kendall Egan