Now that many Monterey local bakeries and eateries, as outlined in a current Monterey County Weekly, are responding to the demand for gluten free with offers of wheat and gluten free goodies, Celiacs and the gluten intolerant can rejoice….and gorge, right? WRONG!
Intent-to-be and gluten-free are not synonymous
Currently the definition of gluten free is still open to interpretation which brings to mind the saying that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. So many products are now labeled as gluten free, naturally gluten free, gluten free (with disclaimers about the shared facility), made with gluten free ingredients, made without wheat and many more labels that are just not clear or are misleading.
Well meaning bakers and chefs are whipping up delights to fill the gap of glutenless goodies. However, without the understanding or knowledge of how to interpret the current labeling, how to uncover sources of gluten in the raw ingredients or where cross contamination opportunities exist, serving these delights becomes a risky business with the undesired result landing squarely on the consumer.
Vigilance lies with the consumer
Celiacs and the gluten intolerant CAN certainly rejoice. There are many more baked products available that fill the gluten free needs in many areas such as tasty desserts, nutritious breads and muffins, protein and nutrition bars and snacks. And many of these products, purchased at a retailer such as a specialty grocery store, are clearly labeled with gluten free certifications from recognized organizations such as CDF and GIG.
However, vigilance is required on the part of the consumer when consuming foods from independent producers such as small bakeries and eateries. And vigilance requires knowledge so that the proper questions may be asked to determine the potential risk before consuming the product.
Before you gorge
Asking a few key questions could mean the difference between pure taste heaven or pure digestive hell. They might include:
- How has the gluten free item been kept separate from gluten containing items from mixing to baking to plating? Thorough cleaning of the kitchen, separate preparation times, separate utensils and equipment is optimal.
- Where are the gluten free ingredients and finished items stored? In either sealed containers or in separate storage areas is satisfactory.
- Have the ingredients been reviewed for possible hidden gluten? Manufacturer’s assurances are best.
Educate yourself with the right questions to ask. If the answers are satisfactory then look for the gluten free goodie that is calling your name and enjoy. If those items are displayed uncovered in the same case or on the same counter as gluten containing products…..RUN!