A Word (or Two) About Labels

By Rachel Sircy

Canva - Assorted-color Box Lot on RackThis is a subject that I tend to write about quite a bit, but I’m going to devote yet another post to discussing gluten-free food that’s not really gluten-free. I’ve previously written about how even though I’ve been gluten-free for more than a decade, I still have flare-ups and residual symptoms. I’m sure that many sufferers of Celiac Disease out there who have been gluten-free for a while have similar issues. That’s because recent research has found that approximately 70% of sufferers who follow a gluten-free diet are regularly exposed to gluten, either accidentally or intentionally.

Of course, there are always those who have moments of weakness and relapse, but many of the us who ingest gluten do so without our knowledge. The problem is often that gluten-free labels are attached to foods which are not truly gluten-free.

An interesting article I found on GlutenFreeWatchdog.com, cited a recent incident in which a sausage manufacturing company was penalized by the USDA for labeling their pork sausage as gluten-free when it contained soy sauce. Those of us who’ve been gluten-free for a while know the dangers of soy sauce. Yes, there are brands (notably San-J) who do claim to make soy sauce without fermenting their soybeans with wheat. However, most types of soy sauce do contain wheat, including the soy sauce used by this company to make its pork sausage. So, how on earth did this company think it could get away with labeling products gluten-free which were clearly not?

Well, I’ll attempt to avoid summarizing Gluten-Free Watchdog’s entire article, (you can read it here: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/when-a-regulatory-agency-usda-actually-enforces-the-gluten-free-labeling-rule-and-recalls-a-product-containing-wheat-based-soy-sauce/) but it’s important to note that the FDA allows products to be labeled gluten-free as long as the gluten in their particular product doesn’t exceed twenty parts per million. That’s twenty parts of gluten per million.

Canva - Supermarket RefrigeratorsHowever, someone in the comments section of the GFWD article rightly pointed out that this system of measurement is flawed – and dangerous – for people with serious gluten sensitivities. You see, a company may label a product gluten-free because it has less than 20ppm, but what if a celiac has two servings? Or what if it takes two (supposedly) gluten-free flavor packets to make a recipe? Then, the level deemed “safe” by the FDA has been exceeded.

The real issue, then, as I understand it, is that companies are not really required to state exactly how much gluten is in a product labeled “gluten-free.” So, it’s nearly impossible to judge what is gluten-free and what isn’t.

So, what are we to do in this case? Well, we can try to make the FDA aware of violations to gluten-free labeling. The Gluten-Free Watchdog website is a good place to send anything that seems suspicious. Take a picture of the label and/or give the name of the product and the manufacturer to them via email. They are good about looking into those kinds of things. Also, FoodAllergy.com has an entire article devoted to placing a complaint about a mislabeled product to the FDA. For more information on what to do when you think a product is mislabeled, visit https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/advocacy-resources/what-to-do-when-you-think-a-product-is-mislabeled.

The K.I.S.S. Life – Cooking

By: Lydia Scott

With all the people and critters coming in and out of our home throughout the week and two full-time employed adults, meals can be a big ol’ pain the patooty. I used to come home from work and stand my 300-pound frame in the kitchen for two hours to cook fancy meals five to six nights a week. I know, I know…the stove heat melted my brain and I wasn’t thinking straight. Or at all. Sheesh! But in my quest to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid – as my daddy used to say), and get healthy, I needed to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with family and exercise. Thus began the weekly menu routine.

Woohoo! Yes! Yay! Whee!!! I get to spend time EVERY STINKING WEEK creating a menu and then planning a grocery list from it. Can you sense my sarcasm there? Ha! While it’s not my favorite thing to do, it serves a very valuable purpose: it keeps me sane, thus making other people happy. Sane and happy are both good, right? I’m still on the fence about that.

Here’s the big challenge for me. First, we don’t do the pre-boxed dinner kind of meal, because it’s against whatever religion I need to say I am to make that a reality. We will go a little crazy sometimes with taco night and use canned Spanish rice and such, but I die a little inside when it happens. Second, a minimum of two dinners must be teenagers-who-don’t-love-cooking friendly. We don’t believe in kids who do nothing being waited on by adults who do it all. Sorry folks…everyone pulls their weight in this house! If you can reach the sink, you can cook something. Anyhow, this means the recipes must have not more than about five steps and five or six ingredients, and nothing that requires (much) concentration. Those dishes that require you to “stir constantly for twenty minutes?” Um…no. Not gonna happen, at least not with an edible result.

The more experienced teen (Rae-Rae) gets the more detailed recipes. Now, I have tried asking them come up with what they want to cook on their own, but we quickly tired of barbecue sauce chicken breasts and tacos. And keep in mind, we have both internet and a kitchen stocked with twenty or more cookbooks. They just aren’t into the chef-thing like I was as a teen. But, the kids will be popular in college because they will know how to make eggs, burgers, casseroles, and pancakes, while their friends struggle not to burn the ramen. They will also know how to make a grocery list based on what they’re going to eat and how much cash they have. Wooo! See? We try to make it sound exciting!

So, Saturday mornings are my quiet time to pull out the iPad, the notebook, the Tonka (okay, she kind of forces her way in), the grocery list from the fridge, my coffee, and a pen – preferably in a pretty color, because I’m silly that way. And then I open my email for links I’ve sent myself for recipes I stumble across that fall in our dietary range, go to great recipe sites, and check out my Kroger app to see what’s on sale. Then I mix it all together to come up with our menu, along with who’s cooking and who gets to clean the kitchen.

menu planning

menu planning

We also have a night or two devoted to my favorite: FFY – Fend For Yourself. Eat what you find and leave no mess behind. Good times!

Then using the list of items that need replenishing, the recipes, and a quick supply inventory, The List is created. And yeah, I could use phone apps and such, but I prefer not to have to haul my phone or tablet around in the store. So, I write out my list, organized by categories that make sense to me and the store layout, because it helps me forget fewer things. This way, I only leave off two items, instead of twenty.

menu planning

Sometimes I leave more room in the menu later in the week with the cop out of “T.B.D.” because I either can’t come up with something or I have a feeling I’ll prefer to play it by ear. Also, the menu is not written in stone. Stuff comes up (like laziness, for example) and sometimes we switch nights or just do something totally different. Also, Big D’s (my hubby) schedule is really iffy, since he is a security alarm technician with a lot of his work happening later in the day. I don’t usually write him in on the cooking schedule, because often he’s not home until after dinnertime. But he winds up cooking dinner about once a week, usually when I need a break the most, because he’s awesome that way!

That’s all for now, because it’s Saturday morning and as you saw, my grocery list sure ain’t done, so I gotta get to it! PLEASE feel more than free to leave me some comments to share ideas and tips for getting more K.I.S.S. in our lives!