March 30, 2010

Buyer Beware! False "gluten free" products!

Thanks to the Gluten Free Mom post on the alarming discovery by Jules Shepard, Snyder's Pretzels is slapping a gluten free label on their bags of pretzels "because Glutino is making a killing" Rrrrrrrrpppp (takes the needle off the record)

Excuse me?

Wow. Talk about false advertising! Please read the letter Jules wrote to the CEO of Snyder's Pretzels and please, PLEASE, do not support this company any further. The comments alone about "forgetting to wash down the line" to avoid cross contamination are extremely powerful for us celiacs and allergenistas, but that really makes me wonder about their regular products. It sounds like they are running a filthy operation to begin with. For your health and the health of your loved ones, avoid them!

Below is the message from Jules and the letter she wrote, both of which are posted on Gluten Free Mom. (I highlighted the most disgusting comments from the Snyder people)

Are you willing to be poisoned?  For profit?

I apologize for the alarm, but where food safety and our health are concerned, silence is not an option. I hope you agree.

This month I met a senior executive of a food company that is launching a new gluten-free product. When I asked why their product was not certified gluten-free, I was discouraged (because I usually only eat products that are certified). As we discussed their reasons, and their casual and dangerous interpretation of what "gluten free" means, my stomach knotted, by blood pressure rose and I was moved to write a letter to their CEO.

Please read the letter, and join me and thousands of gluten-free consumers who will not be taken advantage of for profit’s sake.  The incredible growth of the gluten-free segment of the food industry is usually a positive development for those of us adhering to this eating style. But this growth also is fraught with perils, as uncaring, uninformed companies disregard our health in their eager attempts to capture their share of our dollars. I’ve long compelled my readers to not patronize companies that produce inferior products; to not compromise on taste. Nor should we blindly flock like underfed lemmings to the snack food aisle to purchase the latest "gluten-free" offerings…without proof of the companies’ commitment to protecting our health.

Until now, I had nothing against this company, but in light of what I learned directly from a senior executive, I feel nothing but an all-out boycott of this product by the gluten-free community will suffice.  We need to send a message that our collective purchasing power is powerful indeed. And that gluten-free consumers deserve the safety, care and accountability that marketing a product to us demands. Your swift and committed response will send a message not only to this company, but will serve as a warning to others who want to capitalize on us without doing their diligence.
 
Don’t remain silent. Exercise your right! Voice your concerns by contacting the President and CEO of Snyder's of Hanover directly, Mr. Carl Lee at SOH@snyders-han.com.

Then please pass on this letter to all those you care about who live gluten free. The gluten-free community is a tight-knit one, indeed.  Let’s harness the power we have in our numbers, and raise our voices.  We will not be exploited!~jules shepard
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mr. Carl Lee
President & CEO
Snyder's of Hanover


VIA FAX 717-632-7207

March 26, 2010

Dear Sir,

Your company has undoubtedly identified the gluten-free segment of the food market as a high-growth opportunity. You are about to learn how vital truly gluten-free foods are to the health of this same population – a population which can be very vocal when they think they are being taken advantage of and when their health is placed in jeopardy.

I met with your Vice President of Marketing at Expo West and engaged him in a discussion about your new gluten-free pretzels. I was initially excited about this brand new offering, but I soon became horrified at your company's reckless disregard for the safety of the population to which you hope to market this product.

When I asked about why Snyder's isn't GF certified, your VP of Marketing, Rudi Fischer, brushed off the notion, explaining that the company had explored the requirements of certification, and "didn't want the headaches" that came with it. He elaborated that Snyder's didn't want to have to do any product recalls or lose inventory because any given run may test at over 20 ppm gluten. He even threw out the example that if someone "forgot to wash down the line" between gluten and gluten-free runs, he didn't want to have to "report to anyone else, pull inventory or do any recalls of product". He went so far as to say that although the bags are currently labeled "Gluten Free" and also "Wheat Free," the company is actually going to take off the "Wheat Free" designation since the products are run with wheat products and are potentially contaminated with wheat. Shockingly, he indicated that the "Gluten Free" label will remain, however.

Your VP also said your company is not really concerned with the gluten ppm test results since, he said, "only 3 million people are celiac, and most of them don't even know it yet." He identified your target market as "the other 22 million eating gluten free, just because.s" He indicated that this market segment wouldn't really care if your products contained 20ppm or 23ppm gluten. Can he be serious? When I inquired as to why on earth Snyder's would enter this marketplace (with this approach), he answered, "Because Glutino is making a killing with their pretzels."

This 3-ppm increase in gluten could trigger any number of symptoms in celiacs, or in those who "merely" eat gluten free, ranging from painful gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and cramping, to nutrient malabsorption, painful skin lesions, joint inflammation, fatigue, infertility and miscarriage, and of course, headaches – although apparently ours are not as serious as the headaches your VP indicated would come with gluten-free certification.


I spent the afternoon before the Expo speaking at the Healthy Baking Seminar to more than 130 manufacturers who wanted to get gluten free right. Small and large companies which are willing to invest in educating themselves about the onerous responsibility of gluten-free food safety as well as the market opportunity it represents.

They know, as I wish your company did, that gluten free is not just about a market opportunity. It is a responsibility manufacturers bear when they enter this marketplace. Did you do more than buy the SPINS report, or did you actually talk to gluten-free consumers? In any of your focus groups, did anyone say that a 3-ppm increase (or more) in gluten is acceptable? One-eighth of a teaspoon of gluten-containing flour can cause a chain reaction of painful symptoms in gluten-free consumers from which it may take weeks to recover. The manufacturers who take this responsibility seriously and produce good products -- the ones who do it right -- like Glutino, can make "a killing." The ones who disregard the importance of the responsibility they bear, like Great Specialty Products (recently indicted in North Carolina on six counts of obtaining property by false pretenses by marketing bread as gluten-free that was not, in fact, gluten-free), will have far more to deal with than poor sales.

This is a critical juncture for Snyder's entering this market. As you will see, all eyes are now on you; you have the opportunity to do the right thing. If your product recovers from this misinformed beginning, it will be by finding an organization who is willing to train and certify you – and believe that when they walk out the door you will uphold their standards. It will also come from taking the time to understand your market and ingrain yourself into the gluten-free community by funding celiac research, by supporting efforts to raise awareness for the needs of the gluten-free community, and by proactively lobbying for tougher -- not looser -- labeling protocols. Take the high road and redeem your company, leading the category by example, or your "gluten-free" products will fail and much good will toward your company will be squandered.
 
Sincerely,
Jules E. D. Shepard


*Update! Apparently a lot has been accomplished since the date of this post. Snyder's even commented on this post with more information. It's unfortunate that the comments of a representative of Snyder's were said and hopefully the company has taken care of straightening him out. In the meantime, here is what the President of Synder's had to say:

April 1, 2010

Based upon the responses received from members of the gluten free community to my letter of March 30, 2010, I understand that there are some additional questions and/or concerns that my previous letter did not address. Hopefully, this letter will shed more light on the situation.

Snyder’s of Hanover has been working with the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO), a program of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), since September 2009. As of today, we are happy to announce that our Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks will be GFCO certified. Due to the nature of the discussions with GFCO, we were required to maintain confidentiality until the contract was finalized today.

In my previous response, I was unable to further elaborate on and fully address your concerns until this process was complete. Our Hanover, PA baking facility was originally inspected and approved for gluten sanitation on July 16, 2009. Guidelines of the GF certification subject our Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks to ongoing gluten testing using GFCO-approved testing methods to meet the minimum GFCO standard of less than 10 ppm gluten in finished product. We also will undergo random manufacturing inspections to uphold the integrity of our gluten free certification. This testing protocol was developed by GFCO and Snyder’s will fully comply with this industry leading standard in all aspects of production.

Our gluten-free pretzels have been in development for over a year and have undergone rigorous testing and modifications to ensure it met GFCO requirements and consumer taste standards before it was presented at EXPO West. We would never market a product that would intentionally or unintentionally harm our consumers, gluten intolerant or not.

I apologize for what has been perceived as the cavalier comments of one of our associates. I assure you it is not the opinion or philosophy of the company or of the individual, as it was presented to you. Snyder’s of Hanover operates with the highest ethics; superior quality and safety dictate all that we do. We are committed to understanding and meeting the needs of you and all of our consumers.

Sincerely,
Carl LeePresident and CEO Snyder’s of Hanover

March 23, 2010

Bonnie Bell is back again!

Awhile back, I wrote about my love for Bonnie Bell's Dr. Pepper Lipsmackers. I found out that they were not gluten free. Bummer. I gave them up and switched to Yes to Carrots (the Citrus Lip Butter is awesome!)

Last week I was wandering through my local Walgreens and right there on the Lipsmacker display was a new product - 100% Natural Lipsmackers. Available in Acai Berry, Honeydew Melon, Pink Guava, and Vanilla Bean, I was surprised to see on the packaging:



There's a clear answer right there on the box. I've been seeing a lot of people on the Celiac Listserv asking for suggestions on gluten free lip products, so I hope this helps!

How's it work actually work? Well I bought the Acai Berry and it's kind of thick and grainy. It's not super smooth like other lip butters, but it has a nice scent and it keeps my lips shiny and moist. Not sure if I'll buy it again. It's clear without adding any color to the lips. I liked that tint of color that Dr. Pepper Lipsmacker had. Oh well...

March 17, 2010

Breakfast Crunchies..Gluten Free Cereal Review

This post is long overdue. (As are many other product reviews I have waiting in the wings...sorry!) This one is for Enjoy Life's Crunchy Flax and Crunchy Rice cereals. Earlier this year, the friendly folks at Enjoy Life sent me these cereals to review. If any of you think they sound familiar, you're right. They were (and actually still are) Perky's "Nutty" Cereals, but they have now joined the Enjoy Life family of products.


The first cereal I tried was the Crunchy Rice. It's sweetened with fruit juice and honey and is low in fat and sodium. It's tasty, but it definitely needs to be paired with something, either in cereal with fruit or mixed in yogurt or trail mix, or it is kinda dry. If you're not one for sweet cereals, you'll really like Crunchy Rice.



The Crunchy Flax cereal was delicious. It has a wonderfully nutty flavor and it's full of fiber (6 grams per serving!) and protein (7 grams per serving). It's also filled with 50 grams of whole grain and 425 mg of Omega-3's. I've been mixing it in my yogurt (holla, Stonyfield Fat Free French Vanilla!) and it's amazing. One morning I was running late for work (big surprise) and I threw it all in a container to take to work. When I got there about an hour later, the cereal had become mushy in the yogurt. Surprisingly, and also ironically, it was even better than in its crunchy form. I purposely let it get mushy several times more. Yum!

If these samples couldn't get any better, I got samples within the samples. Little packets of their new granola were included in the boxes of cereal. I really love granola and these were quite tasty. It was actually a little funny because a few days after I tried the granola, one of my co-workers popped into my cubicle to show me a gluten free product she found, Enjoy Life Granola. I totally love when people tell me about gluten free things they find or see. Even if I already heard of them, it's so sweet that people think of me. :) She found Enjoy Life Granola at her local food co-op and she loved it! She noticed it was gluten free and had to tell me her new, delicious find. She mentioned that it was about the same price at non-gluten free granola and tasted better. You can always spot a great gluten free product if non-gluten free peeps love it. Good work, Enjoy Life!


Mmmm....Cinnamon Crunch Granola in French Vanilla Yogurt.

March 11, 2010

Gluten Free Girl Scout Cookies - Tagalongs


The Girl Scout's Tagalongs are my second favorite cookie. Peanut butter, chocolate, AND a vanilla cookie? What could be better (well Samoas...but we always did those).

The gluten free version of the Tagalongs were sooo good! I brought some to work and was told (by a gluten eatin' person) that they were simply marvelous! She even asked for the recipe, so you know they were good. I highly recommend these babies!

Gluten Free Tagalongs
adapted from Baking Bites
The cookie base is the same exact one as the Samoas.

For the cookies you'll need...
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 cups all purpose gluten free flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 to 2 tbsp of milk
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.

- Mix in flour, baking powder, and salt at a low speed.

- Add vanilla extract and milk, adding milk as needed to make the dough come together in a nice thick texture, not too sticky.
Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. (I left mine in overnight)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Either scoop tablespoons of dough, roll into a ball, and flatten, or roll the dough out between floured (gluten free, of course!) wax paper to about ¼ inch thickness.

- Use round cookie cutters to make small circles and use a knife of wide straw to cut a smaller center hole. (Or if you're like me, you can skip this part and just make them whole.)

- Place on a parchment or foil lined cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. (Keep checking on them, mine actually needed to cook for about 20-25 minutes. It's best to start with 15 and keep adding time as needed)

-
As soon as they are out of the oven, use the back of a teaspoon and smash in the center of each cookie (you'll get more peanut butter filling this way!)
- Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, whip up the scrumptious peanut butter filling.

For the filling, you'll need...
1½ cups creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt½ tsp vanilla extract1 bag of milk chocolate chips

- In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla.

- When the mixture comes together, heat in the microwave (short intervals, stirring frequently) until it is VERY soft.

- Transfer the filling to a pastry bag or a plastic bag with the tip cut off (or if you're like me, just use a spoon), and pipe a generous dome of the filling into each cookie's hollowed out center.

- Chill cookies in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the peanut butter is firm.- Melt the chocolate in a small, heat-resistant bowl, in 45 second intervals, stirring frequently.

- Once chocolate is completely melted and smooth, dip each cookie in, using a spoon or fork. Coat completely and place on a sheet of wax or parchment paper to set.

- Cookies can be placed in the refrigerator to speed up the setting process.

Makes about 3 dozen delectable cookies.

March 9, 2010

Gluten Free Girl Scout Cookies - Samoas


Ohhh...I'm so happy to hear the comments about the Thin Mints, for those of you that plan on making them, please let me know how they turn out! As I said, I made mine just a tad too thick, so they weren't just like a girl scout cookie, but pretty darn close!

Side note: A couple of the gluten free blogs I read are Delish and The Cinnamon Quill. Becks at Delish not only has the cutest little boy in the world, but she also made a these cookies too using a blend of rice flours. If you don't use an all purpose gluten free flour, try Becks version of gluten free Thin Mints! If you're going the vegan route, Jenn has you covered! Please visit The Cinnamon Quill's take on Thin Mints. They also double as gluten free Oreos!

OK...moving on to Samoas. My FAVORITE of the girl scout cookies. Once again, I followed Nicole's recipe, but tweaked it to be gluten free. They turned out FABULOUS!!! Everyone who tried them, both gluten free and not, loved them! I did not make the holes in the middle, so they were giant balls of gooey caramel, coconut, chocolate goodness! Without further ado....

Gluten Free Samoas (aka...Caramel de-Lites)
recipe adapted from Baking Bites

For the cookies you'll need....

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 cups all purpose gluten free flour (Again, I used Jules)
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
up to 2 tbsp milk (I used only 1 tbsp)

- In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.

- Mix in flour, baking powder, and salt at a low speed.

- Add vanilla extract and milk, adding milk as needed to make the dough come together in a nice thick texture, not too sticky.

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. (I left mine in overnight)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

- Either scoop tablespoons of dough, roll into a ball, and flatten, or roll the dough out between floured (gluten free, of course!) wax paper to about ¼ inch thickness.

- Use round cookie cutters to make small circles and use a knife of wide straw to cut a smaller center hole. (Or if you're like me, you can skip this part and just make them whole.)

- Place on a parchment or foil lined cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. (Keep checking on them, mine actually needed to cook for about 20-25 minutes. It's best to start with 15 and keep adding time as needed)

- Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely as you make your oh-so-delicious topping!

For the topping, you'll need...
3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz chewy caramels (I used the bag of Kraft caramels)
3 tbsp milk
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (I used the Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)

This part is time consuming, so hang in there...trust me, it's worth it.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

- Spread coconut evenly on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet and toast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until coconut is golden. Cool on a baking sheet, stirring occasionally.

- While that's doing its thing, melt the chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching.

-Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate and place on wax paper.

Set extra chocolate aside.

- Unwrap caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt.

- When caramel is smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.

- Using the spatula or small spoon, spread the topping on cooled cookies, using 2-3 tsp per cookie. (Reheat caramel mixture for a few second in the microwave if it gets too firm to work with.)

- Once all of the cookies have caramel topping, take the chocolate (reheat if needed) and with a spoon, drizzle chocolate over cookies making thin lines (or whatever design you see fit).

Let the chocolate set completely before devouring. If there are any leftovers, store in an airtight container or zip-lock bag.

Makes about 3½ to 4 dozen DELICIOUS cookies!

Check back in tomorrow for gluten free Tagalongs! (or Peanut Butter patties, I think they are now called?)

March 8, 2010

Gluten Free Girl Scout Cookies - Thin Mints

Yes, this blog has turned into a cookie blog as of late, BUT it's National Girl Scout Week so I thought I'd pay tribute to the GSA. (Can I get a what-what?) Not only that, it's totally girl scout cookie season and everyone has been parading around the office with their boxes of cookies that just arrived.

Now I only got as far as a Brownie, so I don't have any fond girl scout memories to share, but I sure did love those cookies! Samoas were my favorite. I believe they are now known as "Caramel Delights". Delightful indeed. Also, every time I think of girl scout cookies, I think of the hilarious film, Troop Beverly Hills, starring Shelley Long...one of my favorites!

One of my boss's daughters was the office's girl scout cookie provider. I usually pop in her office to chit chat, but last week when everyone kept stopping by to pick up their cookies or drop off money, I couldn't help but wish I could have a) supported the troop or b) been able to eat those cookies!! I told my boss I was going to make my own cookies, just you wait.

Well, this weekend I set to it!

I did a little research and found that Nicole over at Baking Bites had already created the home-made girl scout cookies, I just needed to tweak them a little to make them gluten free. First cookie to be transformed? The old favorite, the Thin Mint.

Gluten Free "Thin Mints"
recipe adapted from Baking Bites

2 ¼ cups gluten free all purpose flour (I used Jules)
¼ cup cornstarch
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup white sugar
½ cup butter, room temp
cup milk (any kind)
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp peppermint extract

- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt.

- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.

- With the mixer on low speed, add in the milk and extracts.

- Gradually add in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.

- Shape dough into 2 logs, about 1 ½ inches in diameter and wrap in plastic or wax paper and freeze for at least 1-2 hours, until dough in very firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

- Slice dough into round not more that ¼ inch thick - if they are too thick, they will not be as crisp (mine were kinda on the thicker side, so pay close attention to this part!)

- Place on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Cookies will not spread much, so you can put them closer together.

- Bake for 13-15 minutes, until cookies are film at the edges.

- Cool cookies completely on a wire rack before dipping in chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Coating
10-oz dark or semisweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
½ c butter, room temp (I actually left this out and they turned out fine)

- In a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate and butter.

- Melt on high in the microwave, stirring every 45-60 seconds, until chocolate is smooth.

- Chocolate should have a consistency somewhere between chocolate syrup and fudge for a thin coating.

- Dip each cookie in melted chocolate, turn with a fork to coat, then transfer to a piece of wax paper to set for at least 30 minutes, or until chocolate is cool and firm.

- Reheat chocolate as needed to keep it smooth and easy to dip into.

Makes a freakin' ton of cookies (about 3 ½ - 4 dozen)


Check back tomorrow for my favorite, Samoas!


March 3, 2010

Put On Your Thinking Caps, It's Time to Get Creative!

The National Foundation of Celiac Awareness and Dr. Lucy's Cookies have teamed up to sponsor a contest called "Creative with Cookies". They want to know how YOU celebrate the gluten free lifestyle by enjoying Lucy's cookies.

What I love about this contest is that it's all about creativity! You can sing, dance, write a poem, draw a picture, WHATEVER you want as long as it incorporates Lucy's cookies. Already the wheels are turning for what I plan to enter.

There will be one Grand Prize Winner in each media category (photo, video). Grand Prize Winners will receive a Lucy’s Cookies prize basket filled with eight boxes and 16 grab & go packs of Lucy’s scrumptious gluten-free cookies. Cookie flavors include chocolate chip, cinnamon thin, sugar and oatmeal.

In addition, there will be three Honorable Mention Winners who will be awarded in each media category (photo, video). Honorable Mention Winners will receive four boxes of Lucy’s gluten free cookies—one of each flavor.

All the rules and small print to this contest can be found here. Hurry, contest closes March 21st! What are you waiting for? Go get creative!!

March 2, 2010

I'm Being Featured on Gluten Free Frenzy!


Chandice at Gluten Free Frenzy highlights fellow gluten free bloggers in a new series she's dubbed "Tell All Tuesday". Today I am featured! Go check out my mini interview with her here!