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9 Lies Companies Tell About Gluten-Free Food

9 Lies Companies Tell About Gluten-Free Food

This has nothing to do with flowers.

I’m away from home right now, renting a house for the week in sunny Southern California. That’s a photo I took of the digs in the backyard of the house next to the one I’m renting. Not too shabby, right?

Since I’m on the move, I have been buying way more prepared and semi-prepared food than I normally do. It appears that we are being lied to, quite regularly. I say: enough.

1. It tastes so good, you can’t even tell it’s gluten-free!

If they’re saying that, they just don’t get it. Gluten-free food is not airplane food. It’s not “bad” as a rule. It doesn’t have to be so different from its normal self just to be “good.” That’s an excuse for gluten-free food to be considered extraordinary just because it’s, well, food. Let me say this clearly, so there is no mistake:

THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Step it up, girlfriend, or there are going to be consequences. Keep making bread with huge holes in it. Go on. The minute you have some real competition, we’ll drop you like yesterday’s newspaper.

Speaking of which, if I hear one more time that something is “good—for gluten-free,” somebody’s gonna get it. And it won’t be pretty.

2. It has to be much more expensive.

Unless it’s “certified,” most gluten-free food doesn’t really have to be that much more expensive, unless you’re a teeny tiny shop with zero economies of scale. And if you are a mom and pop shop with no economies of scale, boy oh boy had your product better be good.

3. You have to shop in specialty stores.

Pish posh.

There are so many tons of mainstream items these days that are gluten-free that you might never need to set foot in a natural food store again.

You probably will have to mail order a thing or two, like an all-purpose gluten-free flour or component gluten-free flours that are up to snuff, though. Because most of what you can find on the shelf locally, no matter where in the U.S. you live, isn’t going to be well-priced. Buy in bulk, through the mail. Just do it.

4. We make gluten-free food because we care about you.

You don’t. It’s business. And it’s cool. We get it. I expect that you’re going to conduct yourself like a human being when you do business, and treat your customers well and with respect. Just like you would in any successful business. But if you’re offering gluten-free food, there’s a business reason for it. As well there should be. This market is growing by leaps and bounds.

5. We make the very best product we know how to make, no matter what.

Some companies do, and others simply do not. Those who do not make the best product they have to make to hit their sales projections.

I know that there are issues with the ability of bread to be frozen and defrosted, and I know that many if not most things I make in my home would not be shelf stable enough to be packaged and sold. But there is absolutely no reason that most of the gluten-free food (especially the bread!) I make at home should be better than most of the food I eat in restaurants or buy in stores.

It’s really just not that hard any more.

6. We have a website about our gluten-free foods. We’re committed to you!

It’s pretty easy to have a million separate websites these days. For crying out loud, I’m just some noodnik and I have a website or two.

Sadly, I have made the mistake of buying a product made by a mainstream company even though it didn’t have allergen information on it. The ingredient list looked safe, and even though it was a weekend so I couldn’t call the company’s customer service line, I knew the company had a dedicated gluten-free website. I thought for sure I’d call on Monday and be able to speak to someone who would have an answer for me.

First thing Monday morning, I called. It rang and rang. When someone finally answered, they asked me for my mailing address so they could send me $30 worth of coupons. It went like this:

Me: But I don’t want coupons. I would like allergen information about a particular product.

Him: Well, I don’t have allergen information. This isn’t customer service.

Me: But I called the customer service line.

Him: They were too busy. Your call was transferred. Why don’t you want coupons? You don’t like free products?

Me: *click*

7. You bought our products before, and now we offer your favorite products, gluten-free. And they taste just the same!

Often, mainstream companies subcontract their gluten-free product lines, so they don’t have to start from scratch when they want to offer gluten-free foods. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to know that, just because it’s under the same label, doesn’t mean it’s the same product you were used to.

8. We have a large gluten-free foods section in our supermarket!

Except it’s next to the dog food (not lying – a very large market local to me pulled that), and many of the products in the section are not necessarily gluten-free. Watch out for Bob’s Red Mill products that are from their non-certified-gluten-free line wedged in with the gluten-free products.

Not cool. *tsk tsk*

9. We have a gluten-free menu!

Stop thinking that a proper gluten-free menu is a regular menu stripped bare of pretty much everything good, and a listing of some of the same meals with an asterisk saying:

*For gluten-free, order without croutons

*For gluten-free, order without a roll

*For gluten-free, order without sauce

*For gluten-free, order burger without a bun and wrapped in lettuce

Get real.

Love,
Me

P.S. For great gluten-free food, especially bread that puts everything else you can buy to shame, try My Cookbook.

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  • Sami
    July 27, 2012 at 3:49 AM

    Really interesting posts! As a canadian, where we have had gf legislation for about 25 years now and on Aug 4 th it becomes even stronger with labeling changes to declare gluten in addition to wheat and the other 7 allergens the same as the usa. It also is going to include a couple of new allergens-I think mustard and onions were two. For all allergens including gluten, the common name had to be listed after the ingredient so for modified food starch it has to list the source or for the many names a milk or egg product or its components can be listed as, the allergen must be listed in brackets after each ingredient. So if the ingredient is alblumin (egg) must follow so that the consumer knows there is egg on the product. However the biggest change for Celiacs is for a product to be labeled GF (keep in mind that gf means here under 20ppm and is routinely tested and spot checked) ALL THE INGREDIENTS that the manufacturer uses have to come with a gluten free declaration or certification of their tested status. So food sold in canada is going to be harder to do and for american companies who import into canada they have an additional step to take in having their ingredient suppliers ensure their products are gf. They already have to print different packaging as canada requires french and english information.

    I was diagnosed with CD the old fashioned way 30 years ago-no blood tests just biopsies. I remember when the 20ppm legislation came into effect in canada and I hope very soon in the usa you will have very similar protection. However, it does not mean much unless you have an agency to enforce it, such like we do up here. I have not heard that talked about yet when following the usa discussions over the last decade.

    • July 28, 2012 at 2:48 PM

      We already have laws in the U.S. that require labeling of the 8 most common allergens, which includes wheat, Sami. The push to have the term “gluten-free” defined in the U.S. will hopefully come to fruition (many in the community are working quite hard on that), and when it does the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) will be charged with ensuring compliance.
      Nicole

  • […] Bonus “9 Lies Companies Tell You About GF Foods” rant, by the amazing Nicole of Gluten-F… Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  • July 16, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    I so agree Nicole! I think “gluten-free” is the new green-washing type marketing technique being employed by the food industry… and to that end everyone is jumping on the bandwagon without true regard for the end user. It still falls on us to check EVERYTHING very carefully.
    I will say that we have Five Guys Burgers and Fries down here and my daughter has been SO happy to be able to have real french fries :) Their staff is trained in allergy prep (they change gloves to handle our food). We do have to eat our burgers without a bun but we enjoy it nonetheless!

    • July 16, 2012 at 11:55 PM

      That’s a really interesting analogy to everything being “green,” Dawn. It does have a similar feel to it. Hopefully, everything will be settled with a federal labeling law, defining “gluten-free” once and for all. Until then ….
      xoxo Nicole

  • Christy
    July 16, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    If anyone is in the Virginia Beach area, Burton’s Grill is an amazing restaurant that actually has its own separate kitchen for people with allergies. They have gluten free buns, and they can even make you up some gluten free calamari! It’s DELICIOUS!!! And if there’s something on the regular menu that you want, they can almost always prepare it in a way that it’s gluten free. They work with ALL allergies, too, which is why we love Burton’s so much. :)

    Also, Cheeseburger in Paradise (at least in our area) has started providing gluten free buns, as well, and they’ve got lots of GF burger options. PS… If you go there, get the strawberry lemonade! :9

  • Jennifer
    July 15, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    #9 is definitely the reason why I don’t eat out at restaurants anymore. Olive Garden tried to feed me the nastiest, uncooked but yet overcooked pasta. And the Melting Pot restaurant which claims to be gluten-free served me three different sauces, all containing gluten. Or when the server replies, “what’s gluten?” or “ok” (and proceeds to move onto the other people at my table), I know I shouldn’t be eating there. Luckily, we have a Mustard Seed Market by our house. Around 95% of their menu is gluten-free and they have a designated cooking area for gluten-free foods. Plus, they have an attached store that only sells preservative free, gluten-free, non-GMO food. It’s a bit pricey, but totally worth it.

    It’s also worth it to hear my boyfriend tell me that the gluten-free food we make together is much better than eating out at restaurants.

    Thanks so much for this website!! Without you, I probably wouldn’t be the chef I am today. And thanks for setting up this community; my parents don’t agree with this diet, but for the first time in 8 years, I feel amazing.

    • July 17, 2012 at 12:01 AM

      I’m so glad that your boyfriend appreciates your gluten-free cooking, Jennifer! I’m sorry that your parents aren’t on board, but you know that you don’t need their permission to treat yourself well. You don’t need anyone’s permission for that! That can take some getting used-to. I was always a pleaser, for so many years. I’m finally (mostly) over that. So glad you’re feeling so well. Cheers to that!
      xoxo Nicole

  • candace
    July 13, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    I bring my own food to family events so that my kids and I can eat safely and feel “good” after we leave some place. I don’t really care if other people eat the gf food I bring to events, but I hate, hate, hate when people comment and say, “you eating cardboard again?” “your tastebuds must have changed, because this stuff tastes like sawdust”….

    I don’t know if my taste buds have changed, or if the food truly tastes like cardboard or even sawdust, but my family eats it…it has taken a long time to change patterns of eating from the familiar blue box or wanting to run to dunkin to get donuts on Sunday morning, but we are now in a common place and I am happy for my efforts over the last six years.

    I have learned, that when I bring my own food not to say it is gf (should I be ashamed?), I have also learned that when in a group of kids and I bring out my $7 bag of gf pretzels for my kids to snack on while at the hcokey rink that 99% of the non-gf kids will eat them (eat your own crappy snacks kids) and if I bring my gf spice muffins–no one is complaining…

    I do this for my own health as I used to get sick as a dog after munching on rolls and breadsticks in restaurants (I have never been tested for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity) and for the health of my son with autism. I know I am not up there with the ranks of people with celiac disease who are in dire need of this diet for the sake of their health, but I see how it has changed my son and his focus and behavior (he used to be a zombie) and I no longer get sick because I no longer eat gluten…so cardboard, sawdust whatever, just don’t eat it if you don’t like it…

    as I step off my soapbox. ;)

  • Peggy
    July 13, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    My son & daughter-in-law took both mothers out to dinner before we went to see Little Marmaid with our granddaughter. We ate at The Melting Pot in Sacramento. My d-i-l stressed to them the need for a GF menu. We were all very impressed by the service they provided. They checked & doubled checked to be sure I didn’t get anything with gluten in it. We were very satisfied with our meal & our experience there! My reactions to gluten usually hits within 30 minutes of eating. absolutely no reaction at all! It was good. Can’t say the same for a number of other restaurants in my area! Noodles & Company (headquartered in Boulder, CO) also serves rice noodles & marks your order with an allergy alert so the cooks know & prepare your food accordingly. However, you still need to be careful even when going to a “safe” restaurant.

    I totally agree with all your points! Makes shopping for acceptable gf products a challenge. Thanks, Nicole, for speaking out!

    • July 13, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      Ooh, we’re getting a Noodles & Company. I wasn’t even going to check into that place, just figuring I’d not be able to eat there from the name. Good to know!. Do you just do without the noodles, or do they have GF noodles? or do they use rice noodles always?

    • July 13, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      Good to know about the melting pot. I am not in sac but I don’t live far and we often eat out there while on shopping trips. Now I know a safe place to eat!

  • daisy
    July 13, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    OK, this is making me feel really fortunate, because I live in a big city (Atlanta) with lots of good GF restaurant options (I eat out a lot, and I am super-sensitive to gluten) and at least six dedicated gluten-free bakeries, all of which are good. I get multi-grain hamburger buns from one, cheese straws and muffins from another, cinnamon raisin bread from the third, etc. My regular grocery stores mark GF items with special tags, and there is a “hippy health food” store that has pretty much every GF item you could think of — i.e. GF panko crumbs, GF frozen potstickers. All this to say, if there’s a market for it, and people vote with their dollars and their feet, it is possible for businesses to do GF and do it right. I agree that halfhearted efforts and misinformation are frustrating–there are still plenty of those out there. And there is no GF bagel that tastes like a “regular” bagel, I have thrown away many a bag in disgust!

  • Nicoly
    July 13, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    Eating out with Celiac is the hardest thing for me. Whenever we travel, I research the area we are traveling to and plan for the restaurants I feel safe at…

    My two most recent glutenings happened like this…
    Went to a hip restaurant that had a gluten free menu, enjoyed my meal and the waitress talked us into a flourless chocolate cake touting that it was gluten free! The cake came and was beautiful with a nice scoop of (what appeared to be) vanilla ice cream on top. We started eating and it was delicious. I ended up with a bite of ice cream only and noticed a chewey, fudgey bit in the ice cream. The texture reminded me of brownie and the alarms in my head went off. I stopped eating but it was too late. I inquired with the waitress about the ice cream ingredients and after researching, she informed me that the ice cream did contain wheat. Doh! She offered to buy our dessert…uh, ya think? In my opinion my whole meal should’ve been comped. I paid physically and mentally for two weeks.

    The second was at a Thai restaurant that I frequent. They made my dish gluten free but proceeded to mix up my plate with my Mom’s plate and the mistake wasn’t discovered until it was too late. STILL paying for this one!!! My favorite thing they say to me? “It only has a little bit in it” (demonstrating a pinch with their fingers) It only takes a crumb to do me in!

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