We have all been warned about tricksy stunts included in fine print. We all know someone who has been duped by a some technical legal speak. But what about the in your face statements that are just plain misleading? When it comes to gluten free statements, errors whether accidental or intentional can be harmful. The sad thing is that as more companies want a piece of the gluten-free pie, not all companies take due diligence in understanding gluten-free.
My friend brought over a box of meatballs that said in big letters on the front GLUTEN FREE…luckily I read the back label. The ingredient list for the meatballs was gluten-free, but the separate mango sauce ingredients clearly identified wheat as an ingredient. What if she had not brought the box? What if I had not double checked and just believed the marketing? How could this product be labeled gluten-free if everything in the box was not actually gluten free? This is poor and dangerous marketing.
Later I was shopping online for a gift basket and "Oh joy!" the company had a link to their gluten-free products. Unfortunately, the statements made on their webpage were clearly done by someone who had a limited understanding of celiac needs. I was very angered, not because it misled me, but these kind of errors mislead the well-meaning friends and family who sometimes don't quite "get the gluten thing".
Following is my letter to the company:
I am disturbed by what you have written about your gluten-free offerings. Your description gives me ZERO confidence that your products are actually gluten free. I and two of my daughters are Celiacs. Your ignorance and misinformation in your write-up distinctly says you do not understand gluten free. First of all, you say that your funnel cakes are 100% celiac-free…WHAT? They are either "Celiac-Safe" or "Gluten-Free". Then you go on to say that the lucky gift recipient doesn't HAVE to be gluten-intolerant…WHAT? Like we can decide to just not be gluten sensitive. Its an autoimmune disease! Would you advise other autoimmune sufferers similar advice…juvenile arthritis-you don't have to avoid sugar… MS-you can control your muscles if you choose... rheumatoid arthritis-you can master the swelling and disfiguration of your joints...alopecia-you don't have to be bald… If you think these statements sound ridiculous then think what you are saying to celiacs and especially our friends or family who may want to purchase a well meaning gift but are misadvised by your marketing rhetoric. Your statements leave me with three varying degrees of thought: #1 your company is insensitive, (or worse yet) #2 your company is ignorant (or worst case of all) #3 your company is deliberately negligent. It would be great to get a response from your company and even better if your company fixes the egregious error on its webpage.
I hope that those who continue to speak up can make a difference for the entire gluten-free community. We have already seen strides in laws and labeling, but I advise everyone to always read the fine print…our bodies do!