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Help With Food Lists And Databases

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I have been diagnosed for a year. For 6 to 9 months I pretty much survived on foods labeled gluten-free at the expensive places. Also, I ate fresh meats, veges, etc. I am basically healed and back to running levels that I attained before being diagnosed.

But now I am older and wiser and I know I am missing out on some good mainstream stuff. My question is simple. How good are the food databases subscriptions like Clan Thompson and Gluten Guard? I have a demo of Gluten Guard and I must say I am a little disappointed with the demo. For Example, it says Sweet Baby Rays contains gluten.

What is the concensus on these services? Should I subscribe to one or just get satallite radio instead? Do you trust them and which is the best? I am urgently needing to cut down the time I spend worrying about food. I have a cold and I spent probably a couple of hours over the holidays looking up mucinex, cough syrup, antibiotics, etc. There is more to life. Any advice is helpful. Also, do you recommed desk top or palm.

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I am also thinking about purchasing the Clan Thompson material and would be interested to hear what everyone here thinks about it.

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I purchased Gluten Guard last week and thought I'd share my experience so far. I also purchased a PocketPC (Dell Axmin) and the SDIO bar code scanner at the same time. Please bear in mind that I'm a computer geek and a bit of gadget nut, so I might be willing to put more effort into these things than some people.

The Axim:

- Nice screen, 640x480 vs the 320x240 that some PocketPC's come with

- has CF and SDIO slots that can be used simultaneously

- has 256 meg "static" ram where GG can be installed, so I haven't needed a Compact Flash card yet

- comes with Windows Mobile 5.0, includes Word Mobile or something like that

SDIO Bar Code Scanner

- this is the exact one supported by GG

- install software, plug it in, generally just works - except with GG. More on that below

Gluten Guard

I purchased GG from celiac.com, because I like supporting people who provide free resources like this web site. That does add a small complication to the support process, becuase if you email the GG people directly they say to email Scott first, and then he forwards the question on to them, and then they reply. But, the one question I've had so far did get answered, though it took a little longer than it might have if I bought from the GG people directly.

GG has a simple interface - if you have a scanner, you hit scan (with the stylus), aim it at the product, and it reads it. If you don't have a scanner, you bring up a software keypad and enter the UPC code with the stylus. Either way, once entered it searches the database for a match. If there is one it gives you green, yellow, or red; if not, it tells you. Found or not, you can enter a note.

For yellow or red items, you can ask for details on why the product gets that status. This is nice because you can make a judgement call, especially for the yellow items, on whether or not to buy the product. As they say, it's not 100% accurate. So by looking at the exact reasoning you can make an informed decision. It can also educate you about ingredients that you may not know contain gluten (yellow or caramel coloring, for example).

It's definitely not 100% accurate though. One example is disodium X, where X could be guanylate, inosinate, or Wheat Germamido. From what I can tell both from internet searches and a gluten-free soup can label, the first two are OK and the third contains gluten. GG flags anything that contains any disodium though - erring on the side of caution. I guess that's better than saying gluten is OK, but it underscores that this is really a tool to help you make decisions - not the definitive resource that we might hope for.

About the bar code problem I alluded to: I cannot get the bar code scanner to work with GG. It works great with other PocketPC apps, but when I use it with GG it always comes up with one of two products, even when the number being scanned is a valid product in the database. Windows Mobile5 and the 640x480 resolution are not listed as supported by GG though, so this could be a case where GG needs to be updated for the latest OS. I have not yet contacted GG about this, so it could be something else too. I can't complain too much about this because I knowingly bought something aside from the exact supported configuration. If you really need the bar code scanner to work, I'd buy the exact supported configuration on GG's web site.

Another downside to GG - the product database seems pretty small. I'd guess that I got less than 1 in 5 hits for items I was scanning for purchase. And I don't mean silly things like pastas, breads, or cookies. I mean processed foods and soups that may or may not contain gluten, where a product like GG would be really handy. So it really is more of a helpful tool than a replacement for complete awareness of what ingredients you can and cannot eat.

And that really brings up the question - is it worth it? Since there are so many foods that won't be in the database, you'll need to know your ingredients and call companies anyway. If you get in the habit of doing that, should you spend the $80-120 for a partial solution? Especially when the new labelling regulations help identify gluten? That's a decision that only you can make.

Overall I do like having a small computer that can take shopping. I'll probably give the Clan software a try too, after my credit cards digest this purchase. Since Windows Mobile can run Word, I think I can also get the Delphi lists in there easily. There is also some cooking/recipe software for PocketPC, and that would be nice while shopping. So a PocketPC looks to be a very helpful shopping tool, with or without GG.

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