Saturday, August 19, 2006

Gluten-Free or not GF? Inconsistent product labeling.

Today I made myself a couple of Vans (brand) Wheat Free Blueberry gourmet waffles for breakfast. Well, they are certainly wheat free, as the label says, but in addition they are Gluten Free (a big green and white highlight on the front of the package tells me so).

Sounds straightforward enough. I have gluten free / wheat free waffles. So, if they are GF/WF, why on the back of the package under the ingredients section do they have the disclaimer stating: "Allergy information: contains soy, manufactured on equipment that may also process products containing peanuts or other nuts, wheat, eggs and dairy ingredients"!??

To me, this seems a bit contradictory to say the least. I have to guess it is some legal CYA strategy so that just in case someone has a reaction to one of those allergens, they can say "we told you so". But then, if you are making the bold and prominent claim about being "Gluten Free" right on the front of the package, how can you possibly be processing these waffles on machines that may process wheat? It seems to me that either you marketing department really wants to push the GF thing to land additional consumers as customers, your legal department is being overly cautious, or there is truly a conflict between what the marketing crew has labeled on the front of the box versus the (potential) reality that wheat from shared-equipment may linger and be present in this supposed "gluten free waffle". So, which is it?

Labeling like this makes it very difficult to feel comfortable buying store-bought gluten-free (celiac safe) foods. Please companies, get your stories straight and stop making me wonder what is and is not safe. I want a definite. I *assume* these waffles are fine, but when your own allergy disclaimer statement makes me thing they are not, there is a problem.


Anonymous said...

Mike - I completely understand your frustration with the labeling. I get even more frustrated when I look at the timeline for the FDA's pending resolution of GF labeling. Here is the update from the recent meeting that the FDA hosted regarding their 'pending' labeling (

Now all we have to do is wait for this long overdue definition to get to market! Hopefully by 2009 we'll actually be able to know what we are eating.

While following up on this report, I did come across another interesting article - at least we can be optimistic about what there will be to eat in a few years. (

Lynn Barry said...

You make a great point, can be life threatening to the celiac. Can't be too careful.

I stopped buying them too, because they had some other ingredients I avoid. Instead, I make a batch of buckwheat pancakes and freeze them (usually two with wax paper in between) in baggies. when in the mood, I pull a baggie out of the freezer and either pop them in the microwave or toaster.

Good observation, Mike.Take care.

Mike Eberhart said...

Lynn, freezing the pancakes for later use is an interesting idea. Never thought about tossing them in the toaster like that. Hmmm... may try it.

Also, my wife has considered getting a waffle maker so we can give gluten-free waffles a try. I think they will be quite easy to make based on our experience with cakes.