Gluten-Free Food Fraud Update

8 Comments 16 December 2008

It turns out that at one time there was a notice in reply to the Chicago Tribune's article that was up on the Wellshire Farms website, and you can now read a copy of it here (scroll down to the title QUALITY CONTROL) at Gluten-Free NYC. I found it interesting that the link to the notice on the Wellshire Farms website does not lead you to the original notice anymore. I confirmed that the link originally did lead to the original notice.

What do you think about this original notice?

I personally like the part of the intro that says,"Our understanding after speaking with the author is that this article relates solely to reactions from children with anaphylaxis, that is, with severe reactions to any level of allergens."

What does this imply? That we shouldn't worry about their products at times testing over 200 parts per million gluten if we don't have an anaphylactic reaction to gluten? And what about people that are anaphylactic that react to their products- what if they die? Isn't that even more of a reason for them to accurately test and label their products?

The Chicago Tribune article stated, "An estimated 30,000 Americans require emergency-room treatment and 150 die each year from allergic reactions to food. A large percentage were children, researchers say."

And what about this statement in the original notice near the end, "We apologize for any inconvenience this confusion between the USDA and FDA regulations may have caused our customers." This line sounds condescending to me. Do you hear,  "We are so sorry that you are confused and don't get it that we can feed you over 200ppm gluten and not be responsible for any serious or life threatening health problems induced by our products- we're covered legally."

Now what looks like a revised notice can be found on the Wellshire Farms website under the Eating Well tab listed under the Gluten-Free heading.

What do you think about this revised notice?

I found it interesting that they tried to describe themselves in a way that almost sounds hypervigilent because they adhered to the EU standard of 200 parts per million in their products when they didn't have to.  If anyone at the company is educating themselves about their gluten-free or allergy prone customers, they know that here in the UNITED STATES we want a lower standard than 200 parts per million. OH, and remember the Chicago Tribune's test results for these products?

Let me refresh your memory:

The Chicago Tribune bought three popular Wellshire Farms products advertised as ''gluten free'' and sent multiple samples to a lab for testing.

Chicken Bites: Tested at 204 parts per million and 260 ppm

Chicken Corn Dogs
: Tested at 116 ppm and 2,200 ppm

Beef Corn Dogs: Tested at 191 ppm and 1,200 ppm

Maybe Wellshire Farms should try using a new lab.

The Chicago Tribune article stated,"The FDA, which oversees the vast majority of packaged foods, said it trusts firms to police themselves."

Remember what your mama taught you? Trust has to be earned, is easily lost, and is hard to regain.


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Your Comments

8 Comments so far

  1. 1
    Julie Jeanseau says:

    that is just horrifing. So when I end up with Lymphoma from low acceptable levels of gluten they just say oops sorry? When something is gluten free I expect it to by 100% or leave the label off.
    The mighty dollar wins again,…..and we are down on China?

  2. 2
    Karen says:

    I have never bought any of their products, and I know now I never will. Even if they feel “forced” to change their tune, it is their uncaring attitude towards their potential customers that floors me. If I am on a gluten free diet for ANY reason, and go to the trouble to read labels and buy items that say gluten free, I want those products to BE gluten free. Perhaps if the makes of these products could have the fun of a gluten reaction just once, they would understand.

  3. 3

    I hate to say it, but it sounds like ultimately they have no concern for the health of their customers.

    In all of the communications they don’t seem to respond with concern,alarm, or remorse, but rather attempt to defend the fact that they meet the ‘minimum’ of certain regulatory bodies.

    I had some parents requesting I start to carry these products and now I’m very glad I never did. Maybe you should consider creating a post with alternative products such as the Bell & Evans, Ian’s, or S’Better breaded gluten free chicken products.


  4. 4
    CL Jahn says:

    I agree with Linda, and that’s why I wrote an article titled “WELLSHIRE FARMS IS TRYING TO KILL ME!” for my blog.

    If a product is advertised as “arsenic free,” how much arsenic should we expect to find in it? Hmm?

  5. 5
    Shelly says:

    I am so saddened by this. However it answers so many questions. We give our little one Chicken Bites and then wondered why he seems sick afterwards. And lately he won’t eat them. That should have been a sign.

    I’ll be happy to trust again – when it can be earned.

  6. 6

    You know, it just makes more sense to make your own food from scratch. I know how difficult that is when you’re a busy mom (I do, I do), but it’s just not worth it to eat stuff like corn dogs and packaged foods that you’re unsure of. There are a few companies that are reliable, but when something like this happens, it makes you unsure of any of them. Sad deal for sure. I like companies where someone in the family has celiac, that way they “get” how important it is to adhere to a GF diet. Some of these bigger businesses like Wellshire Farms are just jumping on the GF bandwagon without a clear and serious understanding of how important this is.
    Thanks for all this great information, Kelly. You’re really providing a great service to everyone!

  7. 7
    Glenda says:

    I’m so thankful for your website and regular emails to update those of us with CD. Had it not been for your information, I would not have known. Thank you.

  8. 8
    Emily says:

    This freaks me out a little. In their apology letter on their website they claim wheat dust can fly through the air and land on corn and contaminate it with gluten. Doesn’t that mean we would be taking the chance to ingest gluten anytime we eat corn, quinoa, buckwheat, etc? Is this truly possible? Couldn’t it also “fly through the air” on to veggies and fruit? Aghhh. Now I’m scared to eat my gluten free cornflakes! Maybe I need to do more research on how strict the rules are for labeling a product gluten free?

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Kelly Courson


Thanks for stopping by! I'm Kelly Courson and this is where I've shared my gluten-free finds since 2003. The world has been my gluten-free oyster for 14 years now and I love sharing what I've learned in order to help others adapt to a gluten-free diet. Have a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Connecting with people like you is what has kept me going this long! Seriously.

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