Would You Take a Pill for Celiac?

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com
Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Some people that follow the gluten-free diet for health reasons are just holding on until a magic pill for celiac appears. The hope for them is that a pill could be taken and they could go back to eating whatever they wanted, without any ill effects. However, with all prescription medications, there are risks involved. Just look at the controversy over several osteoperosis drugs that might be linked to people breaking their femur bones. Yes, a drug meant to strengthen bones might be causing them to weaken with prolonged use. I’d read about this issue online two years ago and the FDA is just now considering investigating the issue. Watch the ABC News story here.

When you read about all the problems that are uncovered with pharmaceutical drugs, long after the FDA approves them, it’s hard to feel safe taking any drug every day for the rest of your life. At least it is for me.  Even so, many people are hoping for a cure-all drug for celiac disease. For those of us who are a bit more cautious about taking non life saving medications every day forever are content on trying to make it easier just to live gluten-free. “Let food be thy medicine” is my motto at this point.

In looking at the data regarding medications for celiac, it seems there is going to be a fairly long wait until such a drug appears and even when and if it does, it’s likely to be more of a cross contamination medication than a cure-all for celiac. People might take a pill when dining out, vacationing or during holiday festivities. They would still not eat a lot gluten on purpose, but cross contamination issues might be less problematic. At the latest celiac conference in Chicago in September 2009, the possible and promising therapies for the condition discussed were not a magic pill that people could take and eat as much gluten as they desired. That’s disappointing news for many in the gluten-free community, but not for all.

Anything is possible so maybe a so-called magic pill for celiac will be available eventually. It would be interesting to see how many of our readers would be interested in a “magic pill for celiac”. Please take a moment to vote on this POLLIt’s completely anonymous and the data is not being collected for any company, drug or otherwise.

Gluten-Free Naturals Voluntary Recall

We’re big fans of Gluten-Free Naturals Mixes, but unfortunately, they’re recalling some mixes due to potential salmonella contamination. Here are the details, as written in a note their Vice-President, Paul Graven, sent to customers:

Paul Graven
Vice President
GFN Foods, LLC
Makers of Gluten-Free Naturals
GFN Foods, LLC Voluntarily Recalls Gluten-Free Naturals Pancake Mix,
Gluten-Free Naturals Light & Moist Yellow Cake Mix and
Gluten-Free Naturals Cookie Blend Flour
What is happening?
GFN Foods, LLC of Cranford, NJ is voluntarily recalling:
Gluten-Free Naturals Pancake Mix – UPC 187058 000043
Lots 09159 (exp 12/8/2010), 09320 (exp 5/16/12) 09322 (exp 5/18/12)
Gluten-Free Naturals Light & Moist Yellow Cake Mix – UPC 187058 000067
Lots 09083 (exp 9/24/10) and 09322 (exp 5/18/12)
Gluten-Free Naturals Cookie Blend Flour – UPC 187058 000029
Lots 09086 (exp 6/24/10), 09219 (exp 11/7/10) and 10035 (exp 5/4/11)
Why is this happening?
GFN Foods buys a soy flour from a company called Thumb Oilseed Producers Cooperative, based in Ubly, MI. During an FDA inspection, traces of salmonella were found. According to information GFN Foods received from Thumb Oilseed, it was found on a non-processing surface.  No salmonella was found in the flour or on the processing equipment.  The FDA recommended, and Thumb Oilseed voluntarily complied, with a recall.  The soy flour produced by Thumb Oilseed is in the three GFN products listed above, and GFN is also voluntarily complying with the recall.  The other GFN products do not contain this soy flour and are not subject to any recall or action.
What is my risk of getting sick from salmonella from a GFN product?
If prepared according to the instructions on the bag, there is essentially no risk. If there was any salmonella in the product, it will be killed during baking or cooking.  The only possible way to get sick would be if eating the dry mix, or eating the batter or dough (which also would likely contain a raw egg, which is susceptible to salmonella contamination).
If my risk is low, then why are you recalling the product?
GFN Foods cares deeply about its customers and the safety of its products. It’s one of the reasons we tested for gluten in every batch years before there was any guideline to do so. Our customers have been wonderfully loyal. We want to make sure that they know that we will do whatever it takes to make them comfortable that our products are safe.
What is salmonella?
Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and in some cases fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which can be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result into getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.
What do I need to do next?
If you are uncomfortable with the unconsumed GFN products in your possession that are subject to this recall, you will need to contact GFN Foods via email: [email protected] or by calling 866-781-6147. Please provide identification information and a contact number via email or if leaving a voicemail.
When contacted, GFN Foods will discuss with you next steps and coordinate replacement product. Do not return the product to any retailer – you should contact GFN Foods directly.
GFN Foods, LLC has worked for years to provide safe, high-quality products to its customers. We hope that our customers understand that this action is being taken to ensure their safety.
If you have any questions about this recall, please call Paul Graven at 866-761-6147.

You are receiving this email since you purchased GFN Foods’ Gluten-Free Naturals Pancake Mix, Yellow Cake Mix, or Cookie Blend Flour in the past year.

Paul Graven
Vice President
GFN Foods, LLC
Makers of Gluten-Free Naturals

GFN Foods, LLC Voluntarily Recalls Gluten-Free Naturals Pancake Mix, Gluten-Free Naturals Light & Moist Yellow Cake Mix and Gluten-Free Naturals Cookie Blend Flour

What is happening?
GFN Foods, LLC of Cranford, NJ is voluntarily recalling:

Gluten-Free Naturals Pancake Mix – UPC 187058 000043

Lots 09159 (exp 12/8/2010), 09320 (exp 5/16/12) 09322 (exp 5/18/12)

Gluten-Free Naturals Light & Moist Yellow Cake Mix – UPC 187058 000067

Lots 09083 (exp 9/24/10) and 09322 (exp 5/18/12)

Gluten-Free Naturals Cookie Blend Flour – UPC 187058 000029

Lots 09086 (exp 6/24/10), 09219 (exp 11/7/10) and 10035 (exp 5/4/11)

Why is this happening?
GFN Foods buys a soy flour from a company called Thumb Oilseed Producers Cooperative, based in Ubly, MI. During an FDA inspection, traces of salmonella were found. According to information GFN Foods received from Thumb Oilseed, it was found on a non-processing surface.  No salmonella was found in the flour or on the processing equipment.  The FDA recommended, and Thumb Oilseed voluntarily complied, with a recall.  The soy flour produced by Thumb Oilseed is in the three GFN products listed above, and GFN is also voluntarily complying with the recall.  The other GFN products do not contain this soy flour and are not subject to any recall or action.

What is my risk of getting sick from salmonella from a GFN product?
If prepared according to the instructions on the bag, there is essentially no risk. If there was any salmonella in the product, it will be killed during baking or cooking.  The only possible way to get sick would be if eating the dry mix, or eating the batter or dough (which also would likely contain a raw egg, which is susceptible to salmonella contamination).

If my risk is low, then why are you recalling the product?
GFN Foods cares deeply about its customers and the safety of its products. It’s one of the reasons we tested for gluten in every batch years before there was any guideline to do so. Our customers have been wonderfully loyal. We want to make sure that they know that we will do whatever it takes to make them comfortable that our products are safe.

What is salmonella?
Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and in some cases fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which can be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result into getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.

What do I need to do next?
If you are uncomfortable with the unconsumed GFN products in your possession that are subject to this recall, you will need to contact GFN Foods via email: [email protected] or by calling 866-781-6147. Please provide identification information and a contact number via email or if leaving a voicemail.

When contacted, GFN Foods will discuss with you next steps and coordinate replacement product. Do not return the product to any retailer – you should contact GFN Foods directly.

GFN Foods, LLC has worked for years to provide safe, high-quality products to its customers. We hope that our customers understand that this action is being taken to ensure their safety.

If you have any questions about this recall, please call Paul Graven at 866-761-6147.

A slightly different recall notice has also been posted on the FDA’s website.

Continental Airlines Drops Gluten-free Meals

continentalLogoMy first transatlantic flight after my celiac diagnosis had been booked long before I was ever tested for the condition. The flight was with Delta who had just recently dropped gluten-free meals from their service. After a long and extremely frustrating battle with many representatives from Delta, I finally settled on ordering a vegetarian meal, knowing there might be nothing safe for me to eat in it. Since I was packing plenty of food for dinner, breakfast the next morning and snacks in between, it didn’t really matter what the vegetarian meal contained.

Someone used to ordering special meals on flights suggested I order two vegetarian meals. If they lost only one of them, I’d still have something to eat – maybe. Sure enough, on the flight over, they had only one special meal even though it stated on the tickets we both had special meals ordered. I was able to have salad with my own dressing and some fruit from the airline meal. I had packed a sandwich, peanut butter and crackers, dried fruit and a brownie for dinner alone. I could not eat ll the food I brought for that meal so my husband happily helped me finish it. For breakfast the next morning, other passengers were given a hard, cold roll and a green (literally) banana. My breakfast consisted of a hard boiled egg, some cheese, fruit and ready-cooked bacon. I remember the stares from some around me and comments from people who smelled my tasty bacon that could not see my delightful gluten-free breakfast. It was amusing, to say the least.

On the flight back, neither of us got the special meals we’d requested, but I’d expected as much by then. The Paris airport offered a safe pre-packaged salad and some chips. As always, I had my own dressing packet for the salad. I also had a backpack full of gluten-free food I’d packed for the trip, that I didn’t need to eat on vacation. Almost every person I’ve spoken to since that trip has reported problems with their special meal request with various American based airlines. Apparently Delta reintroduced gluten-free meals but includes things like Rice Krispies in the gluten-free breakfast. Rice Krispies contain gluten in the form of barley malt.

Last week on the celiac listserv, Janet Y. Rinhart, Chairman of the Houston Celiac Support Group, posted some annoying news about Continental Airlines. She gave me her permission to post some of her comments here.

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES has discontinued special gluten-free meals on international flights. This can be anxiety-ridden for celiacs if they do not know and do not come prepared on international flights. Because of security concerns and customs, it may be hard to even bring food, at least enough for that flight and a return flight. And there are few GF choices after Security. Of course, you don’t know what is available when you are abroad as well. Please join me in writing your opinion and encourage Continental to reinstate their gluten-free meals. I think they are keeping the vegan selection, but vegan is mainly a choice. A gluten-free diet is not a choice for celiacs; it is the only way to stay healthy. It is the ONLY treatment for celiac disease.

Continental CEO e-mail: [email protected]

or write to: Mr. Jeffery A. Smisek, CEO, Continental Airlines, P.O. Box 4607, Houston, Texas 77210-4607

Customer service phone # 800.WE.CARE2 (800.932.2732)

Well said Janet. In addition to offering a vegan meal, Continental Airlines also offers the following special meals for international flights only – Hindu, Muslim, Vegan, Kosher and Jain. As reported on ABC News earlier this week, the airline does not offer free meal service on any flight under six hours. Let’s see how much Continental Airlines really cares about what their customers think. Consider joining forces with Janet and making a difference in how the gluten-free community is treated by the airline. It’s great that the airline makes the above mentioned meals available (on transatlantic flights) to people who need them. However, having to eat gluten-free is not a choice for most of us and it seems a bit absurd that the gluten-free meal (a meal prescribed for a medical condition) would be one that was recently dropped from the special meal line-up.

Special Thanks to Janet Y. Rinehart for bringing this matter to the attention of the gluten-free community!

Gluten-free Recipes for St. Patricks’s Day

Photo courtesy of Teri Lee Gruss
Photo courtesy of Teri Lee Gruss

When I was growing up in a small town in the panhandle of Florida, the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day meant I had to wear green to school (or risk being pinched) and that we decorated home room doors with shiny cardboard shamrocks. That was about the extent of it. It was not until I moved to Atlanta that I found out St. Patrick’s day was a big holiday for many and that some places even had parades to celebrate it. Who knew that the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was in American and not Ireland? History.com is full of interesting details about this holiday.

The very first year I lived in Georgia, we went to Savannah for the holiday. The sleepy Southern town made famous by the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” is arguably the location of the biggest St. Patty’s Day celebration in the Southeast. When the locals say they’re going to paint the town green, they are not kidding. Not only was the beer green, the river was green. They dumped coloring into it to make it so. The river there is kind of gray otherwise – not blue, green or even blue-green. At least it was the times I’ve been down there. Obviously, since my St. Patrick’s Day visit to Savannah was almost 30 years ago, I was not on the gluten-free diet. It would be interesting to know if they now have any gluten free beer available so that gluten-free folks can enjoy the celebration with the rest of the crowd.

During our last visit there, we discovered a lovely café (Gallery Espresso) that serves up fresh gluten-free pound cake and cheesecake daily. I didn’t find Savannah itself  to be particularly gluten-free friendly in terms of gluten-free dining options, but I have been to Paula Deen’s restaurant, after all. Paula Deen was only famous in Savannah back then. Often times I’ve thought how it might be a great thing for our community if someone like Paula Deen had to start eating gluten-free. Don’t misunderstand me – I would not wish celiac on anyone but 1 in 100 Americans have it. IF someone like Paula Deen had it, it could benefit our community in a big way. You know that woman isn’t going without her fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits or macaroni and cheese. Paula would surely come up with some of the most amazing gluten-free dishes on the planet – or at least in the South where what flour still reigns supreme in so many restaurant kitchens – including hers.

For those of you looking for some tasty gluten-free St. Patty’s Day recipes, here are some that you might find interesting. I’ve not made any of them but might have to make some Irish soda bread one of these days.

It you want to enjoy an Irish coffee on St. Patty’s Day, make it with pure distilled Irish whisky. If the whisky is distilled and there are no flavors added to it, it is considered gluten-free. *

Let us know if you have a favorite gluten-free recipe to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!

*References : Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.

Recipes: Gluten-Free Pancakes and Cakes

Gluten-free Blueberry Pancakes
Gluten-free Blueberry Pancakes

Since there are only two of us in the house, it never made sense to by multiple flours and make my own baking mix. Shortly after my celiac diagnosis, I purchased a gluten-free cookie mix and I’ve been using various mixes since then. Baking with gluten-free mixes for several people in a household – or an entire family – can get quite expensive. One of our readers inquired about gluten-free recipes for pancakes, white and chocolate cakes.

Below are some offerings I found from various websites and gluten-free blogs. For those who also like using mixes, I’m including some some products that make tasty gluten-free food. The product list is not conclusive and only includes mixes that I’ve personally tried and can vouch for. Obviously, I can not taste test every mix from every product line available.

Gluten-free Pancake Recipes:

Gluten-free Pancakes Mixes:

Gluten-Free Naturals, Pamela’s Products, Namaste123 Gluten Free,  Orgran

Gluten-free Pineapple Upsidedown Cake
Gluten-free Pineapple Upsidedown Cake

Gluten-free White Cake Recipes:

Gluten-free White (or yellow) Cake Mixes:

Gluten-free Naturals, Pamela’s Products, Gluten-free Pantry, Sylvan Border Farms (lemon pound cake), 123 Gluten Free, Betty Crocker

5 Minute Chocolate Cake
5 Minute Chocolate Cake

Gluten-free Chocolate Cake Recipes:

Gluten-free Chocolate Cake Mixes:

Pamela’s Products (sour cream version), Betty CrockerNamaste (also makes excellent spice cake mix), Cherrybrook KitchenBob’s Red Mill (we use chocolate milk and margarine for this mix)

Many gluten-free flours don’t have a very long shelf life and some go rancid much faster than wheat flour. For that reason, it’s important to contact the manufacturer of the products to find out how best to store them for longest shelf life. It’s fairly common for people to purchase too many gluten-free flours only to throw them out before using them up. Snapware containers are the best I’ve found to store flours and gluten-free snacks like crackers, pretzels and cookies. The largest size (sold at my Target) will store the entire 5 lb. bag of Jules Gluten Free flour. It took me just over three months to use that much flour and it never went rancid being stored in that container, in the pantry.

Since all gluten-free flours are not created equal, it’s smart to do some research to find  out which products are the best suited to your tastes. Some flours are grittier than others and some products will say “finely ground” right on the package. Some people don’t care for bean flours in dessert recipes. For instance, the bean flour flavor in a chocolate cake  tends to give way to the chocolate flavor. The same is usually not true of a white cake mix that contains bean flour. Everyone is different and has different taste. Check out this helpful information about gluten-free flours to learn more about the many types of flours out there. Or use the Grocery Guide to find sixteen brands that sell gluten-free flour.