I recently submitted questions to each of the mainstream grocery stores in my area (north side of Chicago – Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Mariano’s) where I frequently do my grocery shopping to determine what their in-store Gluten-Free labeling really means. As you may or may not know, currently there are no FDA regulations in place that require a food manufacturer to prove a food is really gluten free (i.e., contains less than 20 PPM) even if it is labeled as such. There’s good news though – the FDA passed a new rule in 2013 that will go into place in August 2014 that will make this a requirement. (You can learn more about the labeling law on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website). In the meantime, we should all know what these stores’ policies are in relation to the foods they label as gluten-free in their stores.
Here’s the question I submitted to each store:
I’m gluten-free (by medical necessity) and I’m curious how your gluten-free labeling works. I’ve noticed some of your packaged foods are labeled with a “gluten-free” sign. As you probably are aware, right now there are no FDA regulations in place that require a food manufacturer to prove a food is really gluten free (i.e., contains less than 20 PPM). The FDA passed a new rule that will go into place in August 2014 that makes this a requirement. Can you tell me if the foods in your stores marked with the signs fit within the “less than 20 PPM” category” (therefore most likely certified by an accredited agency like GIG) or if they just mirror what’s on the label, which wouldn’t necessarily mean it was GF at this point in time.
Here are the responses I received:
From Whole Foods:
Thank you for contacting us about in-store “gluten free” labeling. Our policy is to only make in-store “gluten free” claims via shelf tags, signage, etc. for products that have been reviewed and approved by the Global Quality Standards Team. Our position is that a Gluten Free claim should mean that the gluten level in the product is below 20 ppm, and that any Gluten Free product claims should be substantiated by quality assurance and testing protocols that verify the gluten level.
We also have a store specific Gluten Free Shopping list that is continuously updated and only contains products that have been approved and are available in our store. For your convenience I’ve inserted the link that will take you to the online Halsted Gluten Free Shopping list. If you like we can gladly print out a copy for you the next time you’re in the store.
Please feel free to contact us directly if you have any other questions or concerns
From Trader Joe’s:
Thanks for the inquiry. All of our products labeled with the words “Gluten-Free” have been laboratory tested to meet the required 20ppm or less per serving. The “No Gluten Ingredients Used” List is for products that are made WITHOUT gluten, but have not been tested for ppm.
You may call us at 626.599.3817 with any questions you have.
From Mariano’s: Note – I have not received a definitive response from Mariano’s yet but did receive a phone call within 24 hours of my request letting me know they are looking into it. I will update this post when once I receive their response.