Sometimes that “not quite right” looking gluten-free food turns out to be gluten-free
Sometimes that “not quite right” looking gluten-free food turns out to be gluten-free and sometimes it does not.
Latest incident. We recently tested two pretzel sticks that looked different from the rest of the pretzel sticks in a bag of gluten-free Snyders’s of Hanover pretzels. They were longer, thinner, and darker than the other pretzels (see photo). GFWD asked SH to test the errant pretzels but they declined.
SH will not test any product once packaging has been opened. This is due to chain of custody issues, the potential for accidental cross contact, and no control over the product once the bag is opened. While these concerns are understandable, without testing it is hard to know whether errant pieces of “different looking” product are a health issue.
At the time of the incident, Snyder’s of Hanover explained that the longer, thinner size was believed to be caused by a plugged up dye hole that leads to longer thinner sticks being extruded through adjacent holes. The darker color was due to the sticks being baked at the same temperature as the thicker pretzels.
GFWD tested the pretzels. Fortunately they turned out to be gluten-free. Was the consumer concern misplaced? Of course it wasn’t.
If something about a packaged gluten-free food doesn’t look right, report it. The recall of Van’s “gluten-free” waffles happened thanks to consumers speaking up—first to Van’s Foods and then to the FDA when the response from the manufacturer was less than stellar.
Packaging errors sometimes happen. At Gluten Free Watchdog we’ve been contacted about gluten-free pasta that included errant pieces that were a different shape and color. We’ve been contacted numerous times about errant grains in various bags of legumes. And we’ve been contacted on a few occasions about “gluten-free” pretzels that simply “did not look right”. On one occasion the pretzels sent to us by the consumer, tested at over 58,000 parts per million of gluten. On another occasion, the pretzels sent to us tested below 5 parts per million.
If something similar happens to you—you open a gluten-free product and it doesn’t look right–please consider taking the following steps:
- Contact the manufacturer
- If you are asked to return the remaining product, make sure the manufacturer puts in writing that they will test the sample for gluten, advise you of the results, and retain any remaining sample
- Do not send the entire product back to the manufacturer
- Put a small amount in a clearly marked unused zip-lock bag
- Take photos of the product packaging and the product, including the lot number, best by date, and UPC code
- Contact your local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator
- A listing is available at https://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/
- If you have any difficulties, contact Gluten Free Watchdog for help at firstname.lastname@example.org