I was I little freaked out the other day when I was shopping for gluten-free specialty items. The store where I was has a great marking system denoting products’ gluten-free status. The marking is located on the price sticker in front of the item on the shelf. I find this to be the most helpful. With a scan of the eye you can find gluten-free items in an instant.
However, the eye scan wasn’t enough the other day. I’m lucky that I apparently had my other gluten-free eye open! I was looking at the cake mixes, trying to find a gluten-free yellow cake for a holiday dessert. I was looking at products with bigger packaging (hoping some day that one cake mix will actually make a regular 9×13-size cake), and I came upon Arrowhead Mills products. The company has a generous variety of gluten-free mixes which is always nice.
Trust your Gluten-Free Gut!
Among a grouping of about 8 mixes (baking, brownies cake, most gluten-free and I think one was a regular baking mix) I stopped and looked at the Vanilla cake mix. In part, it caught my eye because of the bigger packaging; I wanted to see how much cake the mix actually made. But then I noticed that while the sticker on the shelf said it was gluten free, the front of the packaging did not; it said Organic Vanilla Cake Mix. Talk about a red flag! I looked at the ingredients and it said “Contains: Wheat”.
Ugh! I thought to myself. I was so glad I looked! But what if I hadn’t? What if I’d have purchased the mix, made the cake and the three celiacs in my family got horribly sick! I would feel awful! And what else bothers me – what if someone else already bought it thinking it was gluten-free, by solely relying on the price tag?
A Gluten-Free Alert!
I quickly brought it to the attention of an employee there. I explained that the tag says it’s gluten-free but clearly the label reads that it’s not, and either the product needed to be moved or the price tag needed to change. Surprisingly, the person who met with me actually said something like, “Well you know all of these have some level of wheat in them.” I was too busy to hit the roof or get into a debate about parts per million of gluten in gluten-free products. All I said was, “If an item is gluten-free, it does NOT have a notation on the bottom of the ingredients that says ‘CONTAINS: WHEAT’.”
He quickly removed the gluten-free sticker from the shelf, eliminating the possibility of confusion or a false sense of security in reading the price identifier alone. None of this is Arrowhead Mills’ fault they just make the products. What happened in my situation was simple human error, but one that could have made some people horribly sick. Hopefully I helped in some way. I’m just glad I didn’t buy it! It goes to show never let your guard down, and always keep that sharp gluten-free eye open!