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Do Not Trust The Trader Joes Labels
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I almost purchased some baked cheetos at Trader Joes today. The front of the package had the mark indicating it was gluten free. The back, however, indicated that the product had been processed on equipment that also processed wheat products.

I have sent an e-mail to Trader Joes but have not yet heard back from them.

Please be very careful and do not trust their gluten free label on the front of their products.

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This doesn't seem fair to Trader Joe's to me. I don't believe they are breaking any rules by stating that something is gluten free even though it might be made on equipment that also processes wheat.

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I can understand your frustration. :)

In the Unites States, as of yet, there is no standard for labeling a product "gluten free". A company can label a product "gluten free" if there are no gluten ingredients.

More and more, I see companies labeling their products "no gluten ingredients". Rarely a manufactured product can claim to be 100% gluten free. The slightest exposure growing, harvesting and processing can not guarantee 100%.

But a product that is processes at a facility that also produces wheat products, does not make that product non-gluten free, and should be labeled "no gluten ingredients".

Trader Joe's does very well by us and they are very well intended. There may be an occassional product that slips by, but we are lucky to have them.

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Sorry, but I have to disagree here.

If it is processed on the same equipment with wheat, then it most likely has wheat in it.

Have you ever eaten something that did not have gluten in it but was process on equipment with wheat? I have and the results were pretty serious.

Cross contamination is serious and should not be underestimated. I still shop at Trader Joes, I just want those of us who cannot eat wheat or gluten to be awawre that the label on the front may have been placed there by someone who does not fully understand celiac sprue disease and gluten intollerance. If something is processed on equipment with wheat, then we cannot eat it. :(

This doesn't seem fair to Trader Joe's to me. I don't believe they are breaking any rules by stating that something is gluten free even though it might be made on equipment that also processes wheat.
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Sbj is correct. There is no regulatory definition by the FDA of "gluten-free."

Canada has strict rules about the ingredients in "gluten-free" products, but even those apply only to ingredients intentionally in the product.

In both Canada and the US, labels regarding shared equipment, or shared facilities, are completely voluntary. So, just because you don't see a notice, you can not assume that ether the equipment or the facility is dedicated to gluten-free products. A number of companies will by their own policy always disclose this, but many don't.

It sucks, but that is the way it is.

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A product that is labeled "Gluten Free" should not contain any gluten-- even if there isnt a law enforcing it. It should mean exactly what it says. If they mean that there arent ingredients in the product-- fine-- say tno gluten ingredients. But I do not think it is fair or safe to consumers to say something is gluten free, when there is gluten in it, regardless of how the gluten found its way into the product.

I have fell victim to Trader Joes too many times to count and I think they're a great store in general, but very unsafe for anyone with food allergies or reactions. I will not shop there anymore.

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A product that is labeled "Gluten Free" should not contain any gluten

The test does not exist that can show something contains no gluten. No test is that sensitive - it's not possible. Gluten is virtually unavoidable in microscopic amounts - it's everywhere, even in 'gluten-free' flours.

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Plates in my kitchen are, by default, equipment that has wheat made on it.

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I don't know what is right or wrong or possible or not possible regarding gluten labeling and testing, but I do know that I just glutened my daughter by the Trader Joe's Cheese Puffs. I knew the back said shared "equipment" and it was our first try at that. I thought it would be OK since she has done fine with shared "facility". She was sick within 10 minutes :(

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Trader Joe's, in my experience, discriminated between "No gluten ingredients," which means they don't have gluten ingredients but you need to read the processing statement on the back, and gluten-free which hasn't been processed on shared equipment.

I've noticed over the last few years their labeling has gotten better. But, like anything else you should always read the WHOLE label.

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I think everyone is going to react differently. I will not eat anything that says made on shared equipment with wheat. I will eat if it says made in a facility that also processes wheat. It's a personal choice.

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For those who don't yet know this, "Gluten-Free" in the US does not mean gluten-free. It means that it may contain up to 200 ppm (parts per million) gluten.

Rice Dream rice milk, for example, is processed with barley enzymes, and contains residual gluten, but they are allowed to call it "gluten-free" as long as it tests as 200 ppm or less.

200 ppm is more than enough for most celiacs to react, BTW.

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For those who don't yet know this, "Gluten-Free" in the US does not mean gluten-free. It means that it may contain up to 200 ppm (parts per million) gluten.

Can you provide your source for this, please. Although directed by law to develop a definition for "gluten-free" the last I knew the FDA had not yet done so, so "gluten-free" meant whatever the company using the term wanted it to mean. Various levels have been talked about.

A limit level will be necessary, because to enforce a rule there must be a way to test for compliance. No test can ever prove total absence of anything, so the detection level will always be more than zero parts per million. It does not follow that just because the test used for enforcement detects 200 ppm, that every product with a gluten-free label contains 199 ppm. Less than 200 ppm also includes 0 ppm--there is just no way to verify that with a test.

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I'm not sure I understand what you're asking me. I didn't say that "gluten-free" means that it DOES contain 200ppm, just that it may contain UP TO 200 ppm.

According to Kikkoman, their soy sauce can be listed as safe, too, even though wheat is the second ingredient on the label. See: http://surefoodsliving.com/wp-content/uplo...ment_2_4_05.pdf That letter is dated 2005, so if it's no longer accurate information, I do apologize. They listed the Codex standard as 200 ppm. (And I'm not saying I agree with Kikkoman, either, I just thought it was interesting. Sorry if this isn't the right thing to post here--I'm very tired!)

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Thanks for editing your earlier post for clarification, FF.

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Thanks for editing your earlier post for clarification, FF.

I did not edit the original post, for clarification or anything else! I didn't edit it at all--that was how I wrote it the first time. You can tell, because it appears in psawyer's post as a quote.

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I must have misread it, then. I thought you had corrected it to update it regarding gluten free labeling. My mistake!

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Fiddle-Faddle, you state that, in the US, gluten-free means less than 200 ppm.

My question was about the basis of that statement. As far as I know, the FDA has yet to establish a regulation about the designation "gluten-free," so how are we to know that the limit is 200 ppm. Maybe there is no established limit yet (my understanding). It could end up at 200 ppm, or a different number. Until the FDA makes and publishes a rule, we just don't know.

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It is interesting to me that Europe uses a standard of 200 ppm. I often read on this forum about how Europe is so far advanced compared to the US when it comes to gluten free testing, products, labeling, medical profession, and so on. We are so backward in the USA, they are so much better, blah blah. So it strikes me as strange that Europe seem to be getting by quite successfully using a standard of 200 ppm. Many on this forum seem to feel that even a standard of 5 ppm will not be good enough. In fact, from what I can glean, many here actually feel that no product should be labeled gluten free, ever, because you can actually never certify that a product is gluten free. They also seem upset with products that contain no gluten ingredients if they are made on shared equipment or in shared facilities. They don't seem to realize that such labeling is voluntary and much of the gluten free foods that they do eat are probably produced in shared facilities - they simply aren't labeled that way! Gluten is everywhere. Studies show that those with celiac disease can probably handle up to 6 mg of gluten daily without intestinal damage.

Aren't we asking for some impossible to reach standard regarding labeling? As customers it is up to us to take some responsibility for what we put in our bodies - we shouldn't blame these companies that produce products especially for us. If you can't handle food made on lines that also process wheat then do your best to establish which companies are doing that and avoid that food. But I don't think it is unreasonable for a company to say their food is gluten free if they test it to be below 20 ppm and use good practices.

The FDA study linked below is titled, "Approaches to Establish Thresholds for Major Food Allergens and for Gluten in Food":

http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/alrgn.html#table-iii-1

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I believe the standand in the EU was just set this week to 20ppm to be 'gluten-free' and 100ppm for 'very low gluten'. The compliance date is 2012 for manufacturing and labeling changes. I believe wheat starch is still allowed. Here is a link. If you Google it you can find a few more on the subject.

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I believe the standand in the EU was just set this week to 20ppm to be 'gluten-free' and 100ppm for 'very low gluten'. The compliance date is 2012 for manufacturing and labeling changes. I believe wheat starch is still allowed. Here is a link. If you Google it you can find a few more on the subject.

So can gluten-free or very low gluten products be made on lines that also process wheat, or be made on machinery that also processes wheat? Would very low gluten products be suitable for someone with celiac disease (or who is the target, I wonder?)

The FDA article I linked to mentioned that 20 ppm for 'naturally' gluten free products and 100 pmm for other gluten free products was a good target so it sounds like the EU standard is reasonable.

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From traderjoes.com:

In addition, we have voluntarily included information about the manufacturing process of our products ("Made on shared equipment..." and "Made in a facility that processes..."). What these statements don't include (there is only so much room on the label) is that all Trader Joe's private label suppliers follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP's). We work closely with all of the companies that manufacture our products and require that they are vigilant about minimizing and monitoring any potential cross contamination risk. Some of the steps taken to prevent cross contamination include education and training of employees about allergens, careful labeling and segregation of allergen ingredients, cleaning of lines between production runs and stringent scheduling of product runs. Manufacturers may even use alternate days to process products that contain allergens from those products that do not.

We provide you with all of this information so you can feel confident that you are making informed buying decisions. We want you to feel safe, comfortable and thrilled by with the food choices you are making.

As manufacturers and ingredients can change, we strongly encourage our customers to read ingredient information every time they buy a Trader Joe's brand product (or any product, for that matter).

Clearly, everyone needs to evaluate his or her own needs and decide whether they are willing to consume products manufactured on the same equipment, or in the same facility, or only from dedicated facilities. As for me, this statement is good enough. If the equipment is cleaned between runs, and the product I'm eating doesn't contain gluten ingredients, I will eat it. I won't necessarily do the same with other brands, but I haven't had any problem with TJ's stuff so far.

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There was an article in I believe the NY Times? a couple months ago ( I can't find the link, but its somewhere on this board) where they tested out these so-called "good manufacturing practices" which do have an FDA standard in regard to allergens because some children had gotten allergic reactions to food that should never have had allergens in them. I no longer trust that statement. Places like Whole Foods and TJ's don't make or process their own food. In TJ's case a lot of it is processed outside the US. They set these standards for their plants, but who knows how often they check it, how its actually being run etc. Call me paranoid, but I don't trust these big corporations to follow through on all these claims. Heck, the Peanut Butter Corp people are claiming they followed "good manufacturing practices".

I will do "shared facilities" but you won't find me eating anything "shared equipment". I have a 100% gluten-free house for a reason.

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How many parts per million of gluten can a product be contaminated with by being produced on equipment that also produces wheat and gluten? Since many of us have had reactions to products processed on shared equipment, then it seems likely that a product can acquire more than the 200 ppm gluten just by being produced on shared equipment.

Anyone agree/ disagree?

For those who don't yet know this, "Gluten-Free" in the US does not mean gluten-free. It means that it may contain up to 200 ppm (parts per million) gluten.

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