Gluten Free Popcorn and Seasonings

Our little community is having a Magic Show for the kids in the park this weekend. Fun! So when they asked for volunteers, I quickly offered to be in charge of refreshments. This way I can make the treats mainstream, kid friendly and gluten free so our son can enjoy treats along with all the other kids.

When brainstorming fun food ideas with my awesome husband and soon-to-be 10 year old son (TEN?! Wow time flies! I remember when I started this blog he was 5 and we didn’t know he was Celiac!) we came up with some fun food stuffs: cotton candy, popcorn, watermelon (it will be a summer afternoon in the park, after all!) and candy. But making cotton candy? Renting machines that could easily be contaminated = PASS. Renting a big popcorn machine? Same fear. So being the ultimate “nothing’s too awesome for a party” person, what do I do? Why, buy a full-sized old fashioned, movie theatre-style Popcorn machine of course! :P

Our New Popcorn Machine! :)

I was hesitant at first, but then thought “Hey, I just finished a big freelance job and had a little extra money… And I’ve always wanted one… It’d be so neat for parties and movie nights (which we often have!!).”

Yep. I can justify anything, given enough time. :)

So I did a bunch of research and found what seems to be the best mid-level prosumer product, a Great Northern Popcorn 8 oz. Popper. FUN!!! So I bought this super fun popcorn machine for about $165 on Amazon, which seems like a good price.

Ah…. But then.. What to put in it that is totally safe for our super-sensitive Celiac stomachs?? After a LOT more research, I’ve come to the conclusion that the pre-measured packages (those with oil on one side and kernels on the other) aren’t the way to go to be safe. Buying kernels, oil, salt and/or seasonings by themselves is safer and much more cost-effective. During my research, I found that the entire line of Kernel Season’s products is certified GF by GFCO! Yay! Super safe. Check out Kernel Season’s GF policies here and more here.

So I settled on the following gluten free popcorn, oil and seasoning products. I’ve yet to try them (awaiting everything to arrive from Amazon), so I don’t yet know from first hand experience that they worked for us. But these are the products that I felt were safe enough to try. The ones with the “**” stars in front of them are the ones I ended up ordering.

—-Kernels—-
**
Jolly Time Select Popcorn Kernels Premium Yellow Non-GMO Popping Corn
Kernel Season’s Popcorn
Jolly Time White Popcorn Kernels
Jolly Time Select Pop Corn

—-Salt and Flavorings—-
** Kernel Season’s Mini Jars Seasoning Variety Pack
Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil(Pack of 2)
Flavacol Seasoning Popcorn Salt — This kept coming up in my research as GF. I just didn’t order it because I used to LOVE Kernel Season’s shake-on flavorings and was so psyched to see it was safe I didn’t even consider an alternative salt/flavor… But it seems like Flavonol’s gluten free and that Gold Medal is gluten aware. Check out their brochure – search the PDF for “gluten” and you’ll see that they say right there that Flavacol is gluten free.
Kernel Season’s Sweet Seasoning Variety Pack

—-Oils—-
In my research into how to make popcorn taste like it came a movie theatre, it seems that using Coconut Oil is the secret. I already have several different coconut oils, so I didn’t need to research or buy that. But a nice gluten-free coconut oil is a great choice for us Celiacs – high temp friendly and makes the popcorn taste buttery without dairy. Nice! I’ll be trying my Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
on our initial run. (Here’s why I chose to use Nutiva instead of Specrtum (which I never use for any product, as you can see here)
Kernel Season’s Movie Theatre Butter for Popping & Topping Popcorn
Kernel Season’s Popping Oil

I even went so far as to order a Paragon Stainless Steel Popcorn Scoop! Yes, I go totally crazy for parties and themes! :P

Anyway. I hope this helps you have a Poppin’ Good Time! A gluten-free popcorn good time, that is!

What kinds of gluten free popcorn, salts, oils and seasonings do you use?

2013 Gluten-Free Halloween Candy & Treats

LOVE this list of safe gluten-free Halloween candy! ::||:: It’s that time of year again: Candy-ween! :) What does that mean for me? My annual downloadable list of gluten-free candy!!

This is the first year since our 9-year-old son has been diagnosed with Celiac too. Now there are two gluten-free goblins in our house. So just like last year, I made myself a handy, alphabetized list of all the mainstream candies he might get that should be gluten-free (as of Oct 29, 2013). I went more than a little crazy about this! I visited every single manufacturer’s website and/or contacted them via phone or email to ensure no gluten comes into our house. It was no small task; it took over a week to complete!! But now I feel so much better about keeping our little man safe and healthy for his first gluten-free Halloween.

I created the list below for my family’s use and am posting it for your reference only. I can’t possibly guarantee these to be gluten-free; ingredients often change and contamination can happen. So some information listed could contain unintentional errors. I strongly encourage you to check the ingredient label on each individual package before you eat anything. Also, there are some valuable Warnings at the end, so check those before diggin’ into your haul. Remember: when in doubt, leave it out!

:) Happy Trick or Treating! – Noi

You can go here to view, download and print out the 2013 Halloween Candy List

What Do New FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Laws Mean?

It’s finally here! The day for which we, the “let’s be gluten-free” people, have been waiting: the FDA has finally laid down the law for gluten-free labeling. So what does that mean for us? One one hand, we can breathe a little easier: the law has been passed. On the other, our struggles are just beginning: the law isn’t enough, has many pitfalls hidden within and doesn’t go into full effect for a whole year.

Breaking News: FDA sets standard for “Gluten-Free” Find out what this means in a detailed article on GlutenFreeGluten.com


20 Parts per Million

The new labeling requires all products that carry a label referring to a gluten-free status (such as “gluten-free,” “no gluten,” “free of/from gluten” or “without gluten”) be tested to prove said product contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten. The FDA rests it’s decision based on the fact that 20 ppm is the most reliable industry standard for testing (you can see my diatribe on 20 ppm being too high here). But by the FDA’s own findings, 20 ppm is too high for people that are “highly sensitive.” Here’s what the FDA stated on their website* before the law was passed: “Based on the data and other variables included in the analysis, the safety assessment resulted in an estimate that a level of 0.01 ppm gluten in food would be protective of even the most highly sensitive individuals with CD.” So should we be happy about 20 ppm? It’s better than rampant contamination, but still more than enough to get most Celiacs sick.

The hemming and hawing the FDA has done on this topic of 20 ppm is a bit sad. Here’s what they have on there current Q ‘n’ A about gluten labeling: Why didn’t FDA adopt zero ppm gluten rather than less than 20 ppm gluten as one of the criteria for a food labeled gluten-free?
FDA used an analytical methods-based approach to define the term gluten-free and adopted < 20 ppm gluten as one of the criteria for a food labeled gluten-free because the agency relies upon scientifically validated methods for enforcing its regulations. Analytical methods that are scientifically validated to reliably detect gluten at a level lower than 20 ppm are not currently available. 

In addition, some celiac disease researchers and some epidemiological evidence suggest that most individuals with celiac disease can tolerate variable trace amounts and concentrations of gluten in foods (including levels that are less than 20 ppm gluten) without causing adverse health effects. “

Why can’t the FDA follow what either the GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group) and the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) have already implemented? The GIG has a Gluten Free Certification Organization  which will only allow less than 10 PPM of gluten. And the CSA has a limit of less than only FIVE PPM to allow manufacturers to display the CSA Recognition Seal. There are tests (like the RIDASCREEN, Ingensa and Neogen tests) that can test much lower than 20 PPM. The FDA itself has documented that there are currently at least EIGHT tests for gluten that can test under 10 PPM and actually three tests that go as low as THREE PPM (Source: the FDA’s document “Approaches to Establish Thresholds for Major Food Allergens and for Gluten in Food” and then check the very hidden  and scroll down the the “Appendix 4″ table for gluten-specific findings).

So why 20? Why must we settle for “kinda sick” when we eat 20ppm foods when we could go as low as 3?!  (see more in my article “What’s an Acceptable Level of Gluten” here).

Ruling won’t really help us for a year

Manufacturers won’t be held liable for a full year after the findings are published in the Federal Register, which is on their website with a publication date of this coming Monday, August 5th, 2013. So this new ruling won’t help us for just over a year – products can still not be tested, be contaminated or just plain full of gluten and the FDA won’t do anything until the official compliance date, which would seem to be August 5th, 2014. Here’s what the FDA says about enforcing the new gluten-free labeling law:
6. What is the effective date of the final rule and what is the compliance date?
The final rule becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Manufacturers will have a year after the date of publication of the rule to bring package labels into compliance. After this date, any food product labeled “gluten-free” that does not meet the criteria established in the final rule, including a food that contains 20 ppm or more gluten, would be deemed misbranded and would be subject to regulatory enforcement action.

So until the end of next summer, I’m still not going to trust any gluten-free label without doing my homework and researching all new products. And even then, we have to be careful about the wording they use on labels (see “Caution” section below)

Must all foods that are Gluten-Free be labeled as such?

This ruling does not force manufactures to label any and all gluten-free foods as “gluten-free.” So whole, unprocessed foods like meats and veggies and fruits don’t have to have a label or anything. This ruling just means that if a manufacturer wants to denote a product’s gluten-free status, then it must adhere to the FDA’s requirements (after Aug 5, 2014) of containing less than 20ppm.

Does this ruling impact dining out in restaurants?

Not really. The FDA doesn’t have any specific requirements for restaurants. It seems that in the Labeling section of the Gluten-Free Q ‘n’ A that restaurants are free to continue to use the term “gluten-free” without regard to contamination or actual ingredients containing gluten. The FDA merely “suggests” that using the “FDA defined term” of “gluten-free” should now be consistent with the 20 ppm.

9. Does the final rule apply to gluten-free claims made for foods served in restaurants, including cafeterias and buffets? 
With respect to restaurants, FDA guidance suggests that any use of an FDA-defined food labeling claim (such as “fat free” or “low cholesterol”) on restaurant menus should be consistent with the respective regulatory definitions. This same approach would be followed with respect to “gluten-free” claims made in restaurants and other retail food service establishments. 

It seems to me that the inclusion of the word “suggests” means that they are saying they’re not directly regulating the gluten-free status of restaurants. So I’d have to say that this new gluten-free labeling does not have any impact on eating out. Sad. But it just doesn’t seem very safe, if you ask me.

New label to look for?

Nope. The FDA doesn’t provide a universal label, graphic or logo to denote a gluten-free status. There’s a whole slew of new information on the labeling (what wording to look for, what to avoid, where to look) on the Q ‘n’ A section of the FDA’s Gluten-Free Labeling Ruling, sections 7-11. But basically, there’s nothing new to look for.

Continue to use caution!

Well, isn’t this interesting… and a bit disconcerting! Even with the new FDA ruling on the status of “gluten-free” meaning 20ppm, manufacturers can still be sneaky. Products can claim “made with no gluten containing ingredients” or “not made with gluten-containing ingredients” but be contaminated over 20 ppm and not be in violation of gluten-free labeling laws. Here’s what the FDA says about that:

12. Are statements like “made with no gluten-containing ingredients” or similarly “not made with gluten-containing ingredients” permitted on labels of foods bearing a gluten-free claim?
Yes. Neither the final rule nor FDA’s general food labeling regulations prohibit the use of a statement like “made with no gluten-containing ingredients” or “not made with gluten-containing ingredients” on any food products, provided that the statement is truthful and not misleading. However, unless the label of the food including such a statement also bears a gluten-free claim, consumers should not assume that the food meets all FDA requirements for a gluten-free food.
So basically, as long as the product doesn’t say “gluten-free” on it, it can be contaminated well beyond what the FDA requires (20ppm) but not be in violation of the labeling rule.

Oh – and get this one: there is no requirement to tell us if a product is manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat. It’s completely voluntary.

13. Are advisory statements, such as “made in a factory that also processes wheat products” permitted on labels of foods bearing a gluten-free claim?
Yes. The final rule does not prohibit the inclusion of an advisory label statement, such as “made in a facility that also processes wheat,” on foods labeled gluten-free, provided that the statement is truthful and not misleading. FDA would need to evaluate food labels on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a specific advisory statement included along with a gluten-free claim would be potentially misleading to the consumer. However, any food whose label bears a gluten-free claim, regardless of whether it also has an advisory statement, must meet all the requirements of the final rule.

Granted, with the 20ppm ruling, contamination should be caught – provided the product contains one of the five regulated statements (see “Wording” above). But if they don’t state “gluten-free” on a product then they don’t have to test and therefore a “may contain” or “processed in a facility with wheat” statement would be very helpful. It seems to me that ANY product that could be contaminated with gluten should be required to state that fact. (Here’s what the FDA says about these advisory warnings – go to page 10)

Safe, regulated wording

As always, there are loopholes for manufacturers to take advantage of (as detailed above). But once the compliance date of Aug 5, 2014 is hit, the FDA will regulate the following words, making anything labeled with them safe down to 20ppm.

FDA Regulated “Safe Words”

gluten-free

no gluten

free of gluten

without gluten

free from gluten

All in all, this ruling is a great step forward in our gluten-free world. (Well, in a year when the compliance date is hit anyway.) With the passing of these new labeling rules we’ve been transported from a lawless, Gluten-Free Wild West to a nice little town that has a mild-mannered, FDA sheriff who wants to put the gluten behind bars. Well… kinda. But hey, it’s better than nothing!

What do you think about the new ruling? We’ve been waiting a long time for this – I’d love to hear what you think!

 

Check out the official FDA pages here:

FDA: Approaches to Establish Thresholds for Major Food Allergens and for Gluten in Food and scroll half way down and look for the section “D. Gluten Threshold: Evaluation and Findings”
FDA Allergen Food Facts
* source: quote found in Question 11 in the Q ‘n’ A segment on the proposed gluten guidelines

FDA Announces Gluten Free Labeling Requirements

Breaking news directly from the U.S. FDA:

FDA defines “gluten-free” for food labeling

New rule provides standard definition to protect the health of Americans with celiac disease

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today published a new regulation defining the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling.  This will provide a uniform standard definition to help the up to 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be effectively managed only by eating a gluten free diet.

“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health.”

This new federal definition standardizes the meaning of “gluten-free” claims across the food industry. It requires that, in order to use the term “gluten-free” on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

The FDA recognizes that many foods currently labeled as “gluten-free” may be able to meet the new federal definition already. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.

“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free’” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

The term “gluten” refers to proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of these grains.  In people with celiac disease, foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. Such damage limits the ability of celiac disease patients to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other very serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature, and intestinal cancers.

The FDA was directed to issue the new regulation by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which directed FDA to set guidelines for the use of the term “gluten-free” to help people with celiac disease maintain a gluten-free diet.

Hidden Gluten List Update

ListSquareSince my original 2010 List of Potential Hidden Gluten has been so popular, I figured I should update it with what I’ve learned since. So without further ado, here’s my new and improved List of Hidden Gluten to download for your personal use. Enjoy!

Hidden Gluten Sources 2013

 

Thank Goodness for the GFCO (Gluten Free Certification Organization)

While there still aren’t ANY federal requirements for manufacturers about food products being labeled as “gluten free” here in the US (see my diatribe on the FDA’s lack of response here), at least we have the Gluten Free Certification Organization. The GFCO is a branch of the Gluten Intolerance Group of

Whenever I consider a new product, the first thing I do is I look for their happy little GFCF’s logo: a Circle with “GF” inside of it. While it’s not a 100% guarantee you won’t get contaminated (the certification only requires a test to 20ppm, which isn’t enough for me), I still react to some things that are GFCO certified. Like, I’ve reacted to two kinds of Rudi’s Gluten Free Wraps on multiple occasions and they all have the GF Circle on it… (I’ve since banned Rudi’s from the house; too many sick weeks from those Spinach and Plain GF Wraps!)

And when you’re looking at the packaging of products be careful! Many companies will try to replicate the GIG logo and many will say “Certified Gluten Free” but don’t say by whom they’re certified. (Like, some internal division certifies the product, so they can make that claim.) So inspect any packaging that has a little GF logo on it and make sure it’s the exact GCFO logo (pictured above).

And get this: sone manufacturers have had their certification revoked or are just flat-out using the logo without actual certification or authorization, but still display the logo on their packaging. Check the GIG’s site for more information (they have an updated list of Unauthorized Uses and Violators on their first page). They also have updated lists of their currently certified products and manufacturers that I look at every few months (click here and then click on the “Certified Products” tab at the top). I often find new products to try this way – which makes my gluten free life a little easier!

Thanks GIG!!

Cheesecake Factory’s Gluten Free Menu 2013

Here’s the latest Gluten Free info for Cheesecake Factory… They say they’re “working towards providing a gluten free menu sometime in 2013.” But they said that in Feb 2012 as well, so I won’t be holding my breath waiting for a Gluten Free Cheesecake Factory menu….
But here’s what The Cheesecake Factory says about their current gluten-free options (a/o April 1, 2013):
——
Due to the possibility of a recipe change and/or product substitution, we respectfully recommend that you check with a manager prior to ordering. Our managers can confirm your selection and are happy to personally oversee the preparation of your meal. Despite these efforts, we are not able to guarantee against the unintentional or unforeseen cross-contamination of ingredients.

“As featured” Gluten Free Entrees
Lemon-Herb Roasted Chicken
SkinnyLicious Pear and Endive Salad

Favorites that can be Modified to be Gluten Free
Miso Salmon, without Sake Butter Sauce
Fresh Grilled Salmon or Mahi Mahi, without Tartar Sauce
Petite Filet/Filet Mignon, without Onion Rings and Au Jus
Classic Burger or Turkey Burger, without Bun
Caesar Salad, without Croutons 

Gluten Free Appetizers Suggestions 
Quesadilla, substitute corn tortilla
Fire- Roasted Fresh Artichoke, without Spicy Vinaigrette
Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes, without Tomatillo Cream Sauce
Ahi Carpaccio, without Soy-Ginger Sesame Sauce and Togarashi Aioli

Gluten Free Suggestions from our Kids’ Menu
Kids Grilled Chicken
Kid’s Quesadilla, substitute corn tortilla,order without french fries 

Gluten Free Salad Dressings
Caesar
Citrus Honey
SkinnyLicious Mustard Vinaigrette 

Gluten Free Dessert Suggestions
Fresh Berries
Ice Cream
Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake (contains wheat husk but no gluten)
———

And here’s what Cheesecake Factory’s website says about serving people with Special Diets: “We will do our best to accommodate any special health and/or dietary requirements that our guests may have. When placing your order, just inform your server of your special requests and we will be happy to offer substitutions.”

 

Personally, (since I’m so very sensitive to the slightest bit of gluten) I don’t risk eating at Cheesecake Factory any more. How about you? Have you eaten gluten-free from the Cheesecake Factory lately? Have they gotten any better?

 

Beautiful Easter Ideas on Pinterest

Gluten Free Pinterest

 

I’m one of the last of my friends to get into Pinterest, but boy, am I in now!! Have you seen all the wonderful gluten-free ideas out there in stunning photos?! There are some amazing ideas out there. I’m a total Pinterest convert.

I just started pinning pics last month, but I already have tons of boards and pictures pinned. It’s so much fun to browse and find new ideas for gluten-free living. Especially for the holidays; I’ve found dozens of fab ideas for Easter. One of my son’s friends is coming over this afternoon and we’re going to make these little gluten-free pretzel Easter nests that I found on Pinterest.

I made an Easter Idea Board with all kinds of sweets, treats and meal ideas. Let’s see if I can figure out how to show you one of my boards… Hum.. I couldn’t figure out how to embed it on this page, but I took a screenshot to left you see a few fun Easter ideas on the page. So if you click on any of the Easter pictures in this post, it’ll take you to my Gluten Free Easter Pinterest page and you can see them all.

So many great gluten-free ideas swirling around out there just waiting to get pinned…! Have you found any good gluten-free Easter goodies that I should add to the collection?

Enjoy Life Cookie Deal

Since I have so many allergies (Dairy & Egg allergies and 63 other sensitivies, in addition to Celiac – yikes!), I have a very hard time finding baked goods I can safely enjoy. When I found Enjoy Life’s line of cookies a couple of years ago, I was ecstatic. Gluten free, diary (casein) free and egg free (actually, they’re free of all 8 Major Allergens), both their hard and soft baked cookies are safe for me to (occasionally) enjoy. (I only have them every once in a while because I’m also sensitive to grapes and grape juice is one of the ingredients.) And they’re super yummy! I prefer the soft baked ones (the crispy one’s have buckwheat, to which I’m also sensitive). The Brownie Bites are tiny little pillows of chocolate life-saving goodness on those occasions where I’m feeling left out. And our son LOVES the Snickerdoodles. We always have a box or two of Enjoy Life cookies in the pantry.
So when I opened my email this morning and saw a Gluten Free Saver Deal of the Day for not only a discount on stuff we already buy, but for new (hopefully yummy) allergy-consious baked products from Enjoy Life (“Decadent Soft Baked Bars”), I had hit the big yellow “Buy Now” button before I even realized what I was doing. I’ve missed out on their limited time deals before, so when I see one I like, I buy it right away.
I can’t wait to get these new bars! Something new to grab for breakfast on the run is ALWAYS a welcome addition to my gluten-free rotation. And I love that they’re not only made in a dedicated GF facility, but they’re also GFCO Certified; I feel doubly safe from gluten contamination.
Get This Week's Gluten-Free Deal!Are you a member of Gluten Free Saver yet? It’s a very easy, free service that I highly recommend (and just FYI: I only recommend products and services that I actually use myself – and I use this one all the time! It’s great). If you want to check it out, just click the banner above or click here to be brought to the Gluten Free Saver website, then enter your email and it’ll open the current Deal of the Day (like this one for Enjoy Life Cookies). Then they’ll send you emails with awesome mail-order deals (not too many emails – I think I get one every few weeks?) whenever they find good money saving deals. It’s a great way to not only save money on things you already get, but helps you find new gluten-free stuff you may not have otherwise found. And that, my friends, makes gluten-free life easier! :)

Have you used Gluten Free Saver or tried any of Enjoy Life’s cookies or bars? If so, share below; I always love to hear what you think.

Are Peeps Gluten Free?

Our 8-year-old son LOVES Peeps. Adores them! Personally, I don’t get the attraction. But every year (since I had to go gluten-free and we stopped bringing gluten into the house) he asks and I have to say no. Because a couple of years ago I did the research and found they were contaminated (shared equipment).

But this year when he asked (begged, really – I just don’t get it!), I took another look at the ingredients and was surprised to see “Gluten Free” right on the box! So I did some research and found that, yep, they must’ve changed their manufacturing practices because the Just Born (Peeps) website says that: “We offer many gluten-free products under the MIKE AND IKE®, HOT TAMALES®, PEEPS®, GOLDENBERG’S PEANUT CHEWS®, TEENEE BEANEE® and JUST BORN® brands and we are in the process of updating package labels to include gluten-free statements where appropriate.” And now they do!

The little man has already had, like, three boxes of Peeps. Yikes! But hey, they’re gluten-free. :)