Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tip #179: Get To Know Gluten

“Do your chocolates contain gluten?”

Chances are you’ve heard this question at least once or twice in the last year, if not in the last week.

January 13 is National Gluten-Free Day and if you’re not familiar with gluten, it may be time to get acquainted.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. So sure, chocolate should be completely free of gluten. Before making any claims, do your homework.

Start by contacting your chocolate supplier, because even pure chocolate can contain gluten if processed on the same equipment as wheat. Next, look for gluten-containing ingredients in your chocolates. Common offenders are the products of wheat (cookies) or barley malt (a popular sweetener used in candy).

It is estimated celiac disease affects 1 in 100 people worldwide (Celiac DiseaseFoundation) and even more have gluten sensitivity, a wheat allergy or they are simply trying to avoid gluten for one reason or another. Regardless of their reason, the gluten-free segment has experienced staggering sales growth since the Food and Drug Administration released regulations for gluten-free labeling in 2013.

The Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to meet specific standards before labeling their products as gluten free by having their products tested in addition to following other manufacturing and ingredient sourcing protocols.

As an alternative, you may use the phrase “no gluten ingredients,” instead of “gluten free.” This lets the consumer know that there are no gluten ingredients in the product without full certainty gluten cross-contamination hasn’t occurred.

Regardless of your approach, consider ways to inform gluten-leary customers of products available for them. You may identify products that do not contain gluten with a special tag or even create a small display in your store. RCI member, See’s Candies of San Francisco, offers an allergen information list noting which of their candies are unsafe for customers with common food allergies such as nuts, eggs, soy, dairy and gluten. 

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