NC Man Faces Felony Charges for Selling “Gluten-free” Bread full of Gluten

he may *look* harmless...

I wish this were an April Fools’, but…

There was a little blurb in my Google alerts yesterday about a North Carolina man who is on trial for selling gluten-containing bread that was labeled gluten-free.

At first I felt bad for the man; the blurb said he claimed his suppliers gave him false information and I imagined a singular cross-contamination issue gone horribly awry.

I was wrong. There is no reason to feel bad. This guy is – if 1/3 of the allegations are true – a wackadoo and a villain. If the trial goes as I imagine it will, he’ll also be a felon.

First, the facts:

In 2009 a company called Great Specialty Products brought their gluten-free Amish bread to the North Carolina State Fair. It tasted good – too good to be true. Lots of people got sick, as the bread was testing to over 5,000PPM gluten (remember, the generally-accepted threshold to label food as gluten-free in the US is 20PPM).

North Carolina government got involved and brought, “9 felony cases of Receiving Property under False Pretenses against the bakery owner, Paul Seelig,” according to the Gluten-Free Raleigh blog.

The state shut the company down, put up a hefty bail against Seelig and appointed him a lawyer in light of his financial situation. He was expected to take a plea deal, in essence admitting to the 9 counts to protect himself from further allegations. He decided against the deal, and wound up with a minimum 25 counts against him.

Then – then! – he offered information on a completely unrelated murder case, in exchange for a reduction in the charges against him. The man turned in a colleague of his who was of course as innocent as you or I. Needless today the charges against Seelig stand.

And, now, it seems that the Case of the Gluten-full Bread is finally going to trial. Not only is this important for people who got violently ill after eating this bread; it’s also a valuable warning for anyone who thinks they can cash in quick on a “gluten-free” fad diet without anyone knowing.

What’s more, it should be a wake-up call to the FDA. Until they finalize the definition of “gluten-free,” the door is open to more cases like this one.

What do you think should happen to Paul Seelig? Have you encountered any other cases of willful misrepresentation like this?

10 thoughts on “NC Man Faces Felony Charges for Selling “Gluten-free” Bread full of Gluten”

  1. This is awful. Terrible. And obviously the reason to double and triple check everything we eat. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This person needs to be incarcerated. Another example of why I prefer to eat at home and make my own baked goods, etc. I am not so trusting as I have gotten ill from eating in restaurants, etc. Some of the errors more than likely honest mistakes but ….. this man in NC is just evil.

  3. This man should be charged with attempted murder! I have refractory celiac disease and take comfort in products that “claim” to be GF. This man needs to prosecuted to the fullest. Also whoever is responsible for the labling on products needs to understant that rye and barley also contain gluten.

  4. He should be burnt at the stake!!!! Althought I agree withh an earlier comment about checking…but why and how would i check and double if the package says gluten free….LOCK HIM UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY…dramatic…i know. Better yet make him feel the pain we feel!

  5. They just found out a chef (Damian Cordone) was bragging on Facebook about lying to his customers about serving gluten free food.

    He claims people requesting gluten free meals are “bull—-” and that no one ever complained when he served food with gluten (under the guise it was gluten free).

    Of course he never heard from diners… sypmtoms crop up sometime later! Any diner who fell ill after eating his food probably scratched it off the list of possibilities since he stated everything he served them was gluten free.

    This makes the prospect of eating out that much scarier for someone suffering with Celiac or severe allergies. Most people asking for specific dietary restricitions have valid reasons to do so. To assume that anyone asking is just trying to be trendy…. that’s just frightening.

    He was working at Tavern on the Green in New York so lord knows how many people he contaminated! This guy needs to do jail time!

  6. This is so infuriating. I just read about a chef at a popular Atlanta restaurant who said “…coupled with life-threatening allergies and other make-believe ailments….” in a column complaining about customers making special orders. It really makes one wonder how many people smile out one side of their faces and pretend to be accomodating but are actually totally cynical and snide about celiac….

  7. I hope that the judge understands the seriousness of what this person did and gives him the maximum sentence. No plea bargaining in this case. It was just a matter of stupidity and pure greed.

  8. That person should be forced to drink “GoLightly” every 10 minutes for a week, just to give him a small idea of what he was doing to people!

    Ron K.

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