Jamie Stern founder of Allergies and Me has generously offered to share her research and knowledge on the very sensitive topic of gluten-free manufacturing. I hope you enjoy the wealth of information she has compiled for my friends and many visitors on my gluten-free resource site.
As promised, I am going to cover the issues I have noted on many forums and blogs over the last few months. I started this company based on these open forums populated with comments from the food restricted community. We created our online shop to give stressed out families the ability to shop online for allergy free and gluten free food with confidence and provide as much product and manufacturer information we could.
The first part of this series will be dedicated to answering the question: Why are Gluten Free and Allergy Free foods more expensive? Products made without Gluten, Wheat, Eggs, Dairy, Soy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Yeast, Casein, Corn and many other allergens or ingredients causing digestive issues are costly to not only produce, but to manufacture, package, warehouse, market and promote.
Today, we tackle the product production and ingredient sourcing itself….
In order to prevent possible cross contamination, these manufacturers use dedicated, single source ingredient suppliers who do all parts of production – from growing, to harvesting, milling and packaging. This provides the least possible risk of contamination of allergens. Most manufacturers require each ingredient supplier to provide written documentation on product specification and analysis, processing conditions, certifications for Kosher, Organic and Vegan…and on top of that, written certification from a 3rd party that all the ingredients have been tested by an independent lab to confirm they are Allergy free and Gluten free. These tests are not cheap and must be done regularly. Additionally, these suppliers must clean and test for gluten and allergens after every batch produced. Many manufacturers will also test all the ingredients before they enter their dedicated facilities as well.
The manufacturers are tasked with not only sourcing safe ingredients from specialized suppliers, they must also keep their own gluten free and allergy free facilities up to these standards as well. They must maintain a dedicated plant with no gluten, plus none of the top 8 allergens – in addition to others if they are excluded from their finished products.
These manufacturers will purchase new equipment for their facilities to avoid potential cross contamination. There is a lot of research that goes into these purchases. The equipment must be able to blend and seal. Also, the surfaces should have no crevices or spots that make it difficult to clean for the smallest of particles.
These specialized manufacturers must constantly continue their own employee training regarding cross contamination exposures. Do you realize that if an employee eating an allergen before or during a shift break could cause contamination? The entire facility must be free of allergens, and that means everyone that works there! Mainstream manufacturers do not require all the people in their facilities to be gluten free and allergy free when they walk in the door.
As you can imagine, the cost to this point is much higher than mainstream manufacturing processes. Additionally, many of these companies are a “Labor of Love”. They were started by individuals that either had food restrictions themselves or were tasked with finding safe food for a loved one. These are not the “General Mills” of the world, these are hardworking people that felt they had a mission in life to provide safe food for their families, friends and others in the Food Allergy and Food Intolerant community. To these small and specialty manufacturers, Gluten free and Allergy Free food is a necessity, not just a business.
Next time, we will talk about the cost of stocking and selling these allergy free and gluten free foods…
Jamie Stern is the founder of www.Allergiesandme.com , an online store that provides products and resources to those battling Food Intolerances, Food Allergies and many other dietary restrictions. The store carries hundreds of products, many of them gluten free, as well as free from the top food allergens. Check out the website for food news, recalls and great new recipes from cookbook authors and bloggers from around the country.
From our home to yours, Tina Turbin.