“Gluten-Free” Manufacturing

As of last year, I have found out that I am allergic to a lot of foods, one of the most important being wheat. This has meant that I have to be on a gluten-free diet, and it has not been an easy change at all. But as time has gone on, it has become easier, bit by bit.

The problem I have is with brands and their “gluten-free” selection. They may advertise it as so, but the way they process their foods makes it so that the food isn’t gluten-free at all, even when it is supposed to be.

For an example, one would think that I can have potato chips because, hey, it’s potatoes and not bread. Potatoes are starches, not gluten, so logically it means that I should be able to eat it. Well, that is not the case. In the form of Lays Potato Chips, certain flavors have gluten added into the chip to give it that extra flavor. The simple solution would be to avoid those flavors, then, shouldn’t it? Wrong again, because products share processing belts, and gluten-rich chips leave traces of their flavor on the gluten-free chips, causing cross-contamination. So, any given number of chip bags can cause a reaction, even if it’s certified as being gluten-free.

That’s a bit of a middle finger to those of us with sensitivities and other health issues affected by this.

In my short experience, it isn’t just potato chips or other foods that this has affected. A few weeks ago, I found a “gluten-free” macaroni and cheese bowl. On the back, it had a warning that the product was processed at the same factory as wheat-based products. And sure enough, I had a reaction to the bowl because of cross contamination.

Living with allergies is a constant battle. I have to be vigilant and wary of everything I get my hands on, whether it be at a grocery store or at a restaurant. It’s as if I can’t avoid the foods that can hurt/kill me unless I cook my own meals at home. It’s like trying to avoid pollen in the springtime.

I wish businesses would be as vigilant in their food handling as I and others have to be, but I know that these needs are in the minority, and that businesses focus on the majority of their consumers. But it still irks me to know that even if I do everything in my power to avoid any gluten products, it can still cause a reaction out of me because of a simple processing belt. It feels like I’m gambling with my health, and I hate that. I don’t want to always feel like I walked into a casino when I really just walked into a grocery store. But there’s nothing I can really do about it until big brands start catering to the minor needs of consumers in big ways.


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