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How to Log a Consumer Complaint with the FDA
As we wait, and wait, and wait for a final rule on gluten-free labeling regulations, there’s one thing we haven’t considered: Once regulations are in place, how the heck do we report offenders?
We’ve all been glutened by a food product at one point or another. And inevitably, it will happen even after gluten-free regulations are in place. At that point, we will be able to do something about it.
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that food manufacturers indicate if a product contains any of the top eight food allergens. Wheat is on that list; gluten is not. Consumers who have an adverse reaction to a product can report it to the FDA.
According to the FDA website, each state has a Consumer Complaint Coordinator and a designated number to call to log a complaint (telephone numbers are listed on the webpage). When you call, be prepared with the product package in hand. That way, you can answer any questions regarding the product name, lot number or labeling.
I recently spoke with Rhonda Kane, MS, RD, Consumer Safety Officer at the FDA, who explained that when the FDA receives a complaint about a product or manufacturer concerning gluten, food allergens, as well as other issues, the agency is alerted to a potential problem and will take appropriate action. This could include anything from an immediate investigation and follow-up inspection, to a routine follow-up inspection or investigation, to a decision to monitor the firm for further complaints. When a manufacturer is found to be in violation of FDA good manufacturing practices or food safety and labeling laws, the agency has the authority to take action. The type of action FDA takes will depend on the seriousness of the problem, if this is a first or repeated violation, whether there was willful intent to violate the regulations or laws FDA enforces, and other factors, as they apply.
When gluten-free regulations are instituted, Rhonda added, the FDA will follow the same protocol for complaints. Consumers may notify FDA about potential problems, such as when consumers believe an FDA-regulated product is labeled as “gluten-free” when it is not. If such a violation is confirmed, a firm may be subject to FDA enforcement action.
In addition to consumer complaints, the FDA has three other ways to spot irresponsible and illegal manufacturing practices:
So, while there will be others keeping a lookout, you, I, and our community can play a huge role as watchdog…but only after the FDA finalizes its definition of “gluten-free” (which is expected to happen by the end of 2012).
Consumer complaints have great power, but the FDA shouldn’t be the only number you call. Take it a step further and call the manufacturer’s consumer hotline to notify them about your adverse reaction. It may prompt them to take action on their own.
How to Plan Your Gluten-Free Child's Hospital Stay
By Miranda Jade Turbin
Despite the growing awareness of celiac disease, your celiac child can’t be guaranteed safe gluten-free food options in hospitals, making it necessary to take certain precautions and special arrangements when planning your celiac child’s hospital stay. With planning and clear communication with hospital staff, your child’s stay should go smoothly.
First off, get a note from your child’s doctor ordering the gluten-free diet. Before your child’s stay, set a meeting with the head dietician, head nurse, and staff from the different departments involved in your child’s stay, such as the pharmacy, surgery, etc. Explain to the staff that your child cannot consume any amount of gluten. Labeling is critical. Have your child wear an allergy alert wristband. See if you can bring in large labels for your child’s chart and near the hospital bed.
Bring as many gluten-free foods, condiments, toiletries, and other necessary items for your child as possible. Everything should be clearly labeled with your child’s full name and hospital room number.
It may be possible to have the hospital’s dietary department order special gluten-free foods and mixes before your child’s stay, or you may be able to provide your own. Double-check with staff that every “gluten-free” meal your child receives is actually gluten-free. [NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program can train hospital staff on proper gluten-free protocols. Encourage staff to visit www.CeliacLearning.com/kitchens or contact Beckee@CeliacCentral.org for more information.]
Celinal Foods, Inc. sells a Gluten-Free Be Ready Kit, which includes menus, single-serve foods and mixes, tray cards, and instructional materials for kitchen staff. My Own Meals, Inc. sells gluten-free Glatt Kosher ready-to-heat meals, which can be purchased by your child’s hospital to provide gluten-free options for your celiac child.
A common theme in helping celiac children deal with most of the challenges of the gluten-free diet is the importance of planning and communication. With these, your child’s visit to the hospital is much more likely to be a safe, gluten-free one.
Here’s a recipe to treat your celiac or gluten sensitive child after their stay:
RECIPE: Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs
About Miranda Jade Turbin
Miranda Jade Turbin became extremely interested and involved in the subjects of celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and gluten issues a number of years ago, after being diagnosed as celiac after many years of unresolved troubles. Since then, she has engaged in diligent research and writing about these topics, developing gluten-free recipes and reviewing companies for celiac consumer safety at the award-winning website: GlutenFreeHelp.info.
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Gluten-Free Recipes for a Happy Valentine’s Day
By Chef Oonagh Williams
BEET AND ORANGE SALAD
You might have noticed that beet salads are becoming one of the ‘en vogue’ chef recipes. I have seen recipes for a beet salad in magazines, online and on restaurant menus. I like to use fresh beets because I think they have more flavor than canned beets, but when you’re making a salad with so many other flavors, the difference isn’t very noticeable.
SHRIMP & SCALLOPS WITH MIXED BELL PEPPERS AND MUSHROOM CREAM SAUCE
I have been making this recipe for many years. It is a rich sauce that I like to serve with pasta and usually a pork steak. I had shrimp and scallops left over from Christmas, so I made the sauce to go with shrimp and scallops but it is good with salmon, chicken breasts or served on its own for a vegetarian meal. I like making it with different colored bell peppers for visual appeal.
TOBLERONE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
This is a very simple dessert to make as an indulgence for Valentine’s Day. It is soft, creamy, but not intensely chocolate-y. I used pretty Martini glasses to serve. If you don’t own glasses similar to Martini glasses, then perhaps use Valentine's Day as an excuse to buy two glasses. Virtually anything looks more special served beautifully. Remember, you eat with your eyes first.
About Chef Oonagh Williams
British-born award-winning chef Oonagh Williams has a culinary arts degree and was trained in London and Switzerland. Based in New Hampshire, Chef Oonagh began adapting meals to gluten-free versions after her son was diagnosed with gluten and lactose intolerance two years ago. To learn more, visit Chef Oonagh’s website at RoyalTemptations.com or ‘Like’ her at Gluten Free Cooking with Oonagh on Facebook.
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NFCA thanks everyone in the celiac and gluten sensitive community who has already completed the Gluten in Medications Survey. Because of your efforts, this critical study is making progress.
If you have not yet taken the survey, please take a few minutes to do so. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for this survey, please send them the link. The success of this study depends on gathering enough responses, so please help us share this important news!
To learn more about the need for this study, listen to this radio interview with Dr. Robert Mangione, one of the study’s co-primary investigators:
[AUDIO] Health Talk with Dr. Ronald Hoffman: Gluten in Medications
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The Acai Berry: A Nutritious Exotic Fruit
By Gini Warner, Clinical Nutritionist
The acai berry is an inch-long reddish, purple fruit. It comes from the acai palm tree which is native to Central and South America.
The acai berry contains bioflavanoids. Bioflavonoids are powerful antioxidants that help defend the body against life’s stressors. They also play a role in the body’s cell protection system. Free radicals are harmful byproducts produced by the body. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants may interfere with aging and the disease process by neutralizing free radicals.By lessening the destructive power of free radicals, antioxidants may help reduce the risk of some diseases, such as heart disease.
The best way to enjoy the acai berry is to eat it in its fresh, raw, fruit form. The problem though is that this option is not always available and is slightly more expensive than other products. Therefore, many consumers have no other option but to stick with the ready-to-drink varieties.
The good thing about the juice form is that it can be a pure extract of the berry, which leaves all its benefits from nutrients. Smoothies are good alternatives to the juice. Smoothies can be bought as a prepackaged drink, or they can be made at home. To save on cost, a homemade smoothie is much more preferable since the drink often commands hefty price tags in restaurants and health bars.
The acai berry, like all fresh fruit, is naturally gluten-free and makes a perfectly healthy snack or beverage.
About Gini Warner:
Gini Warner completed her master’s degree in Health Education and Nutritional Science at New York University in 1988 and has been working with families, individuals and corporations in the fields of celiac disease, immune dysfunction, diabetes, and more. She has been a practicing nutritional counselor for more than 20 years. Gini recently co-authored The Gluten-Free Edge.
To learn more, contact Gini at www.healthbygini.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dan Kohler of Renegade Kitchen
Gluten-Free Amaranth and Black Bean Salad
Let’s be honest, quinoa gets all the attention. I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere along the line people decided it was the fancy ancient grain. And it is great, but it’s got some competition. Amaranth, say hello.
Amaranth is a much smaller grain and cooks up like porridge. It’s super high in protein, super high in fiber and completely gluten-free. Make a big batch of this salad and keep it in the fridge at your office. You’ll have lunch all week with nary a sandwich in sight.
Recipe will be posted Monday, Feb. 6: Recipe of the Week
Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
Kids running around like lunatics? Need a little something to keep them still for a minute? Make a double batch of these muffins and keep them in the freezer. When you’re in a crunch for a quick snack, pop a few in your toaster oven and your kids will get the message. Snack time is a state of mind, and while your kids are munching on the muffins you might be able to take that mental break you’ve been craving.
Or you can just chow down on a few muffins yourself. We all deserve snack time.
Recipe: Gluten-Free Peanut Butter and Chocolate Muffins
NEW! Win a one-on-one consultation with Dan. Take the Alternative Appetites Cooking Challenge »
What’s an Adzuki bean? Should I buy rice milk or almond milk? What can I do with leftover gluten-free chicken broth? These cooking quandaries and more will be answered as NFCA celebrates the “Thrill of the Choice.”
Sponsored by The Hain Celestial Group Inc., this series of articles takes a look at some gluten-free items in your grocery store that are worth a second look. From cooking with amaranth, to new uses for chocolate chips, these articles will encourage you to freshen up your grocery list.
In addition to the articles, we’ll be giving away a special gluten-free prize pack valued at $100, courtesy of The Hain Celestial Group Inc. Visit our Thrill of the Choice webpage to learn how to enter:
While you’re at it, pop by The Hain Celestial Group’s new and improved website at GlutenFreeChoices.com. There, you’ll find all of their gluten-free products, plus recipes that put those items to use.
NFCA has partnered with Allergic Living, a print magazine dedicated to the celiac and food allergy communities. Each month, we’ll feature a Q&A, news item or article from the Allergic Living team.
Actor Dean McDermott is best known for his real-life role as actress Tori Spelling’s husband and as the co-star of the reality TV show: "Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood."
But as he recently explained to Allergic Living magazine, McDermott is also adapting to a new role: living life with celiac disease.
Allergic Living: When were you diagnosed?
Dean McDermott: About a year and a half ago. I was complaining to my endocrinologist – I’m hypothyroid – about lethargy and dark circles under my eyes.
She said, “Maybe you’re not absorbing nutrients properly.”
I had a blood test and an endoscopy, and both were positive for celiac. Luckily, I don’t get the pain or bloating that some people get.
AL: Was it hard to cut gluten out of your diet?
DM: I did it slowly. At first I was eating gluten-free about 50 percent of the time. So that was easy. It helps that there are so many gluten-free products available now.
I do have cravings, though. I’m in culinary school right now, and just last night we made chocolate éclairs, cheese puffs and cheesecake, and we’ve also been making bread and biscuits.
It’s right in front of my face! And I actually do have to sample it so I know what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong.
AL: Yikes! Celiac experts strongly advise going 100 percent gluten-free following a celiac diagnosis. What does your doctor say about eating a bit of gluten occasionally?
DM: Because I’m on the lower spectrum of it, she’s not terribly concerned. But I definitely feel better when I’m gluten-free.*
*Note: Allergic Living often profiles famous people with celiac disease, and describes how they are doing with control. While the magazine commends Dean McDermott for raising awareness about celiac disease, the editors and NFCA remind you that gastroenterologists, dietitians and other celiac experts advise going 100% gluten-free following diagnosis.
Gluten exposure, over a long term, can do damage to the intestines or can lead to osteoporosis and other related health conditions, even if the person with celiac disease does not feel symptoms.
AL: Have you created any gluten-free masterpieces at culinary school?
DM: I’m experimenting with flour substitutes. There’s so much flour in French cooking, so I’m trying different things, like ground chickpeas and potato starch.
AL: How do you avoid eating gluten when you’re filming or at press events?
DM: People know that I have celiac disease, so they provide gluten-free stuff for me. My publicist lets them know in advance. I find more and more people are aware of celiac disease, the same way more people know about anaphylactic shock to peanuts.
It can be hard, though. Gluten is used as a thickening agent in sauces and spreads. Unfortunately, I’ve been gluten-bombed many times.
For the rest of the interview, in which Dean discusses plans for a gluten-free restaurant and related entrepreneurial ideas, more celiac features, plus gluten-free recipes, get the Winter edition of Allergic Living magazine.
“You Did It!” is a new section of NFCA’s newsletter where we’ll share stories and advice from NFCA volunteers. We hope these articles will inspire you to take action and say “I did it!” today. For more volunteer stories, see NFCA's Awareness All-Stars blog.
NFCA would like to give a special shout out to our Awareness All-Stars fundraisers. These kids and teens created their own online fundraising pages to raise awareness of celiac disease and raise money for NFCA. In total, they raised $8,985. Wow!
We interviewed the top 3 fundraisers (We call them our Awareness MVPs) to learn why they decided to help the cause. You can read about them and listen to clips from our audio interviews on Kids Central.
Thank you to all of our Awareness All-Stars:
“You Said It” is a new part of NFCA’s newsletter where we share something insightful that YOU said on Facebook or Twitter. Join the conversation with NFCA on Facebook and Twitter.
Join the conversation on Twitter: Follow NFCA at @CeliacAwareness
Gluten-Free and Heart Health
In recognition of American Heart Month, NFCA will host a webinar about incorporating heart healthy foods and practices into your gluten-free diet. Join NFCA as Anne Roland Lee, MSEd, RD, LD, Director of Nutritional Services, Schar USA, serves as the guest speaker on this important topic.
Sponsored by Dr. Schar USA, this webinar is free of charge.
The Gluten-Free Link: ADHD, Autism and Celiac Disease
Join NFCA as Marie-Nathalie, PhD, Training Director at Bay Area Family Therapy & Training Associates, returns to the NFCA webinar platform to offer parents and healthcare providers new insights on the link between behavioral disorders like ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and celiac disease in a lively 60-minute review of the current academic literature.
Sponsored by Crunchmaster, this webinar is free of charge.
Save the date for NFCA's annual night at the ballpark. This year, we'll watch the Phillies take on the San Francisco Giants. The group sales page will be posted soon, so hold off on buying tickets to this game until the page is available.
*For more gluten-free and celiac awareness events, visit our Upcoming Events page.
Zpizza Includes Gluten-Free Options in National Pizza Week Celebration
To kick-off National Pizza Week, January 9-15, Zpizza debuted a fan-created menu item, Pepperoni Caprese Pizza that they made available to its customers throughout the month of January. Best of all? Zpizza included celiac customers in their celebration by offering the new pizza on a gluten-free crust!
Zpizza is one of NFCA's GREAT Kitchens, which means its staff has completed gluten-free training and understands the needs of celiac and gluten sensitive customers.
In preparation for this year's Pizza Week celebration, the chain held a “Pure Pepperoni Design Your Dream Pizza" contest back in October, where original recipes submitted by Zpizza Facebook fans were judged by Zpizza's culinary team, known as Sid's Kitchen, and a food and restaurant reporter for The Orange County Register.
The Pepperoni Caprese winning recipe was created by Mellissa Clark of Ohio. A twist on the Italian antipasto dish "Insalata Caprese" of sliced fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes and basil, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted red peppers and Zpizza's new, all-natural pepperoni, known as “Pure Pepperoni” was added to create the Pepperoni Caprese Pizza.
Read more about Zpizza's "Dream Pizza"
GREAT Trained Dietitian Receives College and University Foodservice Award
NFCA would like to congratulate GREAT-trained dietitian Brittney Stuard of Colorado State University! Stuard was recently presented the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) Regional President's Award at the 2011 national conference in Dallas.
According to their website, NACUFS presents several annual awards in an effort to show its appreciation to those who demonstrate outstanding service to the association and the industry.
NACUFS membership consists of approximately 550 institutions of higher education from across the U.S. and Canada, and nearly 500 industry members from the food, equipment, and consulting market segments.
Serving as student employment coordinator for the Residential Dining Services department at Colorado State, Brittney is responsible for student/staff training and instrumental in student employee relationship-building and retention. She also helps to oversee the HACCP and ServSafe food safety programs and currently serves as the Nutrition Committee chair for the NACUFS Continental Region.
The Regional President’s Award is just the latest achievements for Brittney. She was also highlighted as one of the up-and-coming young stars in university foodservice by Foodservice Director magazine in conjunction with the publication’s 30Under30 award series.
You can read more about GREAT Trained dietitian Brittney Stuard in Today @ Colorado State.
To learn more about NFCA's GREAT educational programs, contact Beckee@CeliacCentral.org.
By Cheryl McEvoy, NFCA Online Content Manager, and Atlantis Lacy, NFCA Web Developer
Maninis Gluten Free Bread and Pasta Mixes
I haven’t made homemade pasta since 7th grade home ec class, but I was willing to take on the challenge using Maninis Gluten Free Trovato Pasta Mix. The mix is pretty foolproof – add eggs, water, and oil, then stir until a dough forms. If you’re one of the lucky few who has a pasta machine, the rest is a cinch. If you’re doing it by hand, the kneading, rolling and cutting require some extra effort, but even my haphazard raviolis turned out pretty well. No weird aftertaste, either.
In addition to the pasta mix, Maninis Gluten Free has several bread mixes. These are not quick breads, so you’ll need a little yeast and a dash of patience for these to rise. The Multiuso Multipurpose Flour Mix, however, can be used straight out of the bag and works great for thickening sauces or coating chicken.
Maninis Gluten Free: Product Information
The Blood Sugar Solution
We know the gluten-free diet can be life-changing, but there are other dietary decisions that can mean the difference between a long life and an early death. In The Blood Sugar Solution, functional medicine pioneer Dr. Mark Hyman offers a shocking look at the dietary and environmental factors that are making Americans sick. The book features incredible accounts of how individuals restored their health simply by changing their diet and exercising. While it’s not a “gluten-free” book, many of the chapters focus on reducing sugar and gluten, as they are common triggers for inflammation. The book also includes quizzes, meal plans and online materials to help you evaluate and modify your diet beyond eating gluten-free.
The Blood Sugar Solution
Robbie’s Natural Products
When watching food shows, I am constantly amazing by the number of times a chef will toss flour into a sauce, just to thicken it up. It’s enough to make you skeptical of any prepared or packaged sauce. Robbie’s Natural Products offers a line of barbecue sauces and condiments that are gluten-free and ready to rock. I was particularly excited to see Worcestershire Sauce among the lot, as it’s one of those condiments that require some vigilance (some varieties contain malt vinegar). The Garlic Sauce was a totally new addition to my cooking repertoire, and I’ve used it in soups and stir-fries. My favorite of all was the Sweet and Sour Sauce. It’s a great topping for fish or pork, and I even mixed it with amaranth and chopped dates for a sweet dinner side.
Robbie's Natural Products on Facebook
Surf Sweets, the manufacturers of organic and natural fruit flavored gummies and jellybeans, has launched a new gluten-free and allergy friendly treat just in time for Valentine’s Day. Fruity Hearts are lightly sugared, watermelon and cherry flavored, heart-shaped gummies. Just like all of the gummy fruit snacks offered by Surf Sweets, Fruity Hearts are free of artificial sweeteners and flavors.
Review: Surf Sweets
*Get Hot Products updates from NFCA every week!*
Visit our Gluten-Free Hot Products blog >>
2012 Gluten-Free Camp Information Now Available
NFCA has posted information about gluten-free friendly camp programs available for 2012. The webpage also includes links to find out more about NFCA's GREAT Camps, a gluten-free training course for camp staff. You can also find links to articles about sending your gluten-free child to camp.
Gluten-Free Camp Information
Book a Trip to Disney and Benefit NFCA
If you’re planning a trip to Disney World, consider booking through Ohana Getaways. Through a special offer, the travel agent will donate 3% of your total trip to NFCA. Ohana Getaways will plan all of your meals, get gluten-free menus from all the restaurants at Disney and arrange with the Special Diet Department to ensure your meals are gluten-free. This is a free service, and ticket costs are the same as if you purchased through Disney directly.
Book your trip with Ohana Getaways
Dr. Oz Episode Sparks Discussion Among Celiac and Gluten Sensitive
A recent episode of “The Doctor Oz Show” focused on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, with special guest Elisabeth Hasselbeck. While the show covered important information about symptoms and damage from the untreated disease, it failed to emphasize that celiac disease testing should occur before trying a gluten-free diet. NFCA Facebook fans offered differing opinions on the topic: Some argued that getting a firm diagnosis is paramount, while others said that the important thing is whether you feel better on the diet.
Fast Food Chains Continue Gluten-Free Expansion
Last month, two quick service restaurants made announcements about their gluten-free offerings. Subway launched gluten-free sandwiches in the Duluth, MN, and Superior, WI area, making this the third region to offer a gluten-free bun. Chick-fil-A introduced healthier kids meal options, including grilled chicken nuggets that were promoted as gluten-free. Many were delighted, but others questioned whether appropriate practices are in place to ensure the cooked nuggets are indeed gluten-free.
Gluten Intolerant Tennis Star is “Comeback Player of the Year”
Professional tennis player Sabine Lisicki has been named “Comeback Player of the Year 2011” by the WTA. Lisicki received the honor after rising from No. 218 to No.15 within 7 months, despite an ankle injury and recent diagnosis of gluten intolerance. “I had a very big change in my diet when they found out that I’m intolerant to gluten this year,” she said. “I’m glad the doctors found out!”
Read more in Athletes for Awareness
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