Celiac disease occurs when a protein called gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye generates an immune reaction in the small intestine of susceptible people. Food normally doesn't provoke a response by the body's immune system - the body's defense against microbes and other threats to health - but in a person with Celiac disease, the ingestion of gluten triggers a reaction from the immune system that causes the lining of the small intestine to become inflamed and swollen. This results in the ‘villi’, the tiny hair like projections in the small intestine, to shrink and eventually disappear. In a healthy body, the villi absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from food. With shrunken or no villi, a person with Celiac loses the ability to digest and absorb nutrients; resulting in malabsorption. Malabsorption can deprive the brain, nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of nourishment and cause vitamin deficiencies that may lead to other illnesses
Although celiac disease is inherited, it can affect anyone. It can develop at any age. Symptoms in infants only appear after foods containing gluten are introduced. The condition should be strongly suspected in pale, irritable infants who fail to thrive and who have a potbelly with flat buttocks and malodorous, bulky stools.
Pregnancy, severe stress, physical trauma, or a viral infection can trigger celiac disease in susceptible people for reasons that aren't well understood. Celiac disease also is more common among people with type1 diabetes and thyroid disease.
Some speculate that celiac disease has been around since humankind first switched from a foraging diet of meat and nuts to a cultivated diet that included high-protein grasses like wheat.
There is no "typical" celiac case. The disease has a broad range of symptoms but no common symptom. Some people with Celiac have gastrointestinal symptoms while others can have a host of other symptoms like anemia, skin disorders, osteoporosis, neurological conditions, and many others.
Celiac disease can be diagnosed on the basis of blood tests, and confirmed with an endoscopy. It is important that people not go on a gluten-free diet before seeking a medical evaluation. Doing so may change the results of blood tests and biopsies so that they appear to be normal.
Once thought to be a rare disease, it is now known that celiac is quite common, affecting approximately 3 million people in the U.S. (diagnosed) and several times that number undiagnosed. Celiac disease is incurable, but treatable by adhering to a 100% gluten-free diet.
If you have celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is the only way to avoid doing further damage to your intestinal lining and villi. Once gluten, found in hundreds of common foods, is removed from the diet, the digestive tract may begin healing within several days. Significant healing and re-growth of the villi may take several months in younger people and as long as 2 to 3 years in older individuals.
Today there are hundreds of food products labeled gluten-free in a variety of categories. In most regards, this is great news for those of us living gluten-free lifestyles but it can also be a two edged sword. The wave of popularity for the gluten-free diet has motivated many food manufacturers to label their products ‘gluten-free’ to attract more customers, not because they set out to produce gluten-free food products. For that reason, we recommend that people with celiac disease do their homework before purchasing even labeled gluten-free products. In the ‘old days’ we used to contact food manufacturers to find out if a product contained gluten and what their procedures for testing for gluten were. We believe that it is still the safest way to ensure a processed food item is truly gluten-free.
In an era of heightened awareness for the gluten-free diet it has become increasingly more difficult to decipher the manufacturing practices of gluten-free manufacturers. The market space is no longer dominated by pioneers in gluten-free food manufacturing; it is populated by companies who make gluten and gluten-free products in the same facility, by large manufactures who have changed their ingredient statements to fit a gluten-free profile and by companies who’s intent never was to produce gluten-free products, but who are now badging their products ‘gluten-free’ because the market is lucrative. Add to the confusion gluten-free organizations, who offer gluten-free certifications with very little oversight, little or no follow-up testing and who fail to investigate or acknowledge sub standard test results for ‘certified’ companies who repeatedly test over 20ppm by 3rd party labs.
It is a glorious and dangerous new world for people with Celiac disease. Glorious because of all the new and better tasting products now available; dangerous because where once we could be assured of safety by diligently reading labels or calling the company; now so many products carry an organization certification badge adopted to alleviate our fears and concerns, but do they? – Not if the standards and protocols for the certification are not stringent and diligent.
At Glutenfreeda Foods, we have built our business and our future on providing the safest gluten-free products available. The aforementioned era of heightened awareness has translated into an explosion of people now on gluten-free diets. These people include Celiacs, people with gluten sensitivity, people who believe a gluten-free diet is healthy and people who believe a gluten-free diet is the answer to weight loss. We welcome anyone who chooses to live on a gluten-free diet, but we’ve built our business for people with Celiac disease who have zero tolerance. We have developed a program of stringent standards, protocols and procedures to assure the utmost safety of our products.
What makes Glutenfreeda's Certification the Gold Standard? Plenty.
We start with our suppliers. All approved suppliers must comply with our list of gluten-free criteria which includes providing a certificate of analysis identifying that their ingredients are tested and in compliance with FDA’s Gluten-Free Labeling Final Rule. Suppliers need to assure that risks, critical control points, and preventative measures are identified in the handling of gluten-free ingredients at their facilities. Their HACCP must include a dedicated program for handling of gluten-free products and a Hazard Analysis that includes Critical Control Points must be established to formalize a gluten-free program and protocol.
We perform a risk assessment for all ingredients identifying their potential risk of cross-contamination. For ingredients that we determine have a significant risk, we conduct an audit at the supplier’s facility and perform our own tests on the ingredient before we accept them onto our production floor.
Yvonne Gifford, Chief Executive Officer; Celiac
We conduct on-going gluten testing at our facility. All our ingredients, equipment, production environment, and finished products are tested continuously on a rotating basis according to company’s self certifying gluten-free program. All of our products test below 5ppm. Each quarter, we send a sample of every product we produce to an outside 3rd party lab for verification in triplicate. All verifications have returned less than 5ppm gluten. (In fact, we consistently test less than 2.5ppm, the lowest number the test reports.)
Production and packing lines are also tested on an on-going frequent schedule.
Besides our rigorous testing procedures, Glutenfreeda Foods is also a 100% dedicated gluten-free facility. No gluten has ever been on our production floor since our inception, ever. It is our belief that co-producing gluten and gluten-free products in the same facility is an unsafe practice that can lead to cross-contamination and in our opinion is risky business.
All Glutenfreeda Foods products carry our trade marked Glutenfreeda Certification badge. This badge is your assurance that you and your family are consuming the safest gluten-free products available. Unlike other certifications like organic or kosher, for many of us, living on a gluten-free diet is not a choice but a necessary life long lifestyle that we must adopt to improve and sustain our health.
Safe, authentic tasting, quality gluten-free products is what we’re all about and the reason we continue to earn our customer’s trust and loyalty.
Not all Gluten-free oats are created equal.
In today’s gluten-free frenzy environment, many food manufacturers are now producing gluten-free oat products with a variety of ‘cleansing’ processes to clean or separate gluten contaminants from oats, rather than following a purity protocol process. This includes small, medium and large specialty and mainstream manufacturers whose interest align more with economics than the purity of the oats. From both an economic and capacity perspective, it is easy to understand why these companies have deviated from the purity protocol process. The cost of oats from growers and processors who follow purity protocol is approximately twice the cost of commodity oats and there is not sufficient supply to satisfy demand of cereal companies such as General Mills, Quaker or Nature’s Path, who all use sorting practices instead of purity protocol. However, this deviation to a method that optically or mechanically cleanses or sorts gluten contaminates from oats has resulted in gluten levels that far exceed 20ppm gluten and have caused illness and class action lawsuits.
Since its inception, Glutenfreeda has always followed and supported the purity protocol process for gluten-free oats and although nearly all of our competitors have chosen to source oats from growers and processors who also process wheat, rye and barley at a lower cost, we remain true to our original principles and steadfastly follow the purity protocol process from farm to table. We are proud to ONLY source from oat manufactures who practice purity protocol. Our key suppliers, Avena Foods and GF Harvest are leaders in the industry with impeccable standards.
Glutenfreeda Foods and our oat suppliers are listed on the Gluten Free Watchdog’s list as a manufacture and supplier who produce under a gluten-free purity protocol. The Gluten Free Watchdog, (glutenfreewatchdog.org), founded by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, is a website that makes state-of-the-art gluten-free food testing data on packaged products available to consumers.
What is Purity Protocol?
Purity protocol specifies how oats can be grown and handled to prevent any cross-contamination with wheat or other gluten-containing grains. The challenge with oats is that they’re normally grown, harvested, transported and stored alongside gluten-containing grains and they are typically a rotation crop to gluten grains. Purity Protocol begins with the farmers, the soil and the seed.
To ensure all gluten-containing grains are virtually eliminated from the fields, growers are required to have a three-year gluten-free crop rotation. In addition, a three-meter isolation strip is mandatory for fields growing Avena Oats and all seeds used are pedigreed seed supported by a signed copy of the seed declaration.
Annual field inspections are conducted annually to ensure fields are not showing signs of gluten-containing crops. Once the crop is mature and harvested, a pre-cleaned harvest sample is sent to a third-party lab for analysis. Samples are visually inspected to determine purity of the field.
Once the grower has cleaned the grain, another samples are sent to a third-party lab for purity checks and another purity screen.
The transport trucks are cleaned prior to hauling with the paperwork attached to the grain documentations.
At delivery, a thorough visual inspection is done on each kernel in a portion sample. From the composite sample, raw grains are grounded to a powder and a quick gluten test is performed using the RIDA QUICK Gliadin R7003 test kit, then the grain is ready to run through production.
The Avena Foods milling site is a dedicated, certified gluten-free facility and is certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) of North America, which is verified and validated by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). GFCO inspects Avena’s products and manufacturing facility to ensure the program standards are never compromised and that the gluten level is always less than 10 parts per million or less.
To ensure products are not contaminated with gluten during transportation, new pallets are used, trailers are ensured to be free of gaps and inspected prior to final sealing of the load to preserve the integrity of the product during transportation.
Each shipment is uniquely traceable back to individual growers and their fields.
Purity Protocol requires a rigorous process and requires a dedicated commitment to providing the highest quality, SAFE, gluten-free oats. Glutenfreeda and its oat suppliers continue to make this commitment.