Sometimes We Need to ACT Instead of REACT

gluten free brownie

I know…I know.

“What the heck are you talking about Gluten Dude? Aren’t you the biggest REACTOR in the world?”

For the record…no…that would be Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in Japan. But I digress.

So do you see that image above? That is a label from a brownie sent to me privately from a fellow celiac. The red arrows were my creative touch. Yeah…I know…the right side of my brain is in serious overdrive.

Anyway, you’ll see in big old letters “Gluten Free Fudge Brownie”. And in the ingredients, you will note it says it contains both wheat flour and malted barley; two serious gluten-free offenders.

So my first reaction was to call the company out publicly. It was just so blatant that it had to be shared. I mean, how dare they…blah, blah, blah.

But I must be maturing or something. Turning 40-something (cough, cough) in 10 days will do that to a person.

Instead of calling them out and getting everyone all riled up, I decided to phone the company instead and ask what the heck is going on. I spoke to customer service, explained what I was calling about and she put me right through to the owner of the company.

And what did the owner do?

Did he deny it? Did he get angry? Did he create a new website just to bash me??

Nope. He apologized profusely. It was a labeling error…nothing more, nothing less. The ingredients listed are for their regular brownies, not the gluten-free ones. He felt absolutely awful about it and totally owned up to it.

His exact quote: “My screw up. I did not check. What a fool I was. I will not do that again. Thank you for reaching out to me, and not castigating me, as you well could have, and were entitled to do. ”

Not only that, but he knew all about the FDA law, the 20ppm limit, etc. He’s done his research. He sends his gluten free brownies and cookies out for testing every six weeks and they come back at about 5ppm. He even forwarded me the most recent report to confirm it.

He also said that about 400 of these mis-labeled brownies went out and if anybody finds a store that is still selling them to please buy them all and he will personally send you a check and some free samples.

Now he does indeed produce the gluten-free items in the same facility as the other items so I will not be eating them. But that’s not what this is about today.

In a world of deceit, it was refreshing to come across someone who owns up to their mistakes and tries to make things right.

Actually, he told me his biggest fear was that I would report him to the FDA.

And if I simply REACTED, perhaps I would have.

Lesson learned.

Now let me tell you about my 20 minute conversation the other day with Bart from Bart’s Bakery. Naaahhhh…I’ll save that for another post.

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56 thoughts on “Sometimes We Need to ACT Instead of REACT”

  1. Dude

    Glad you acted instead of overreacting. It’s a Good Thing when calm & levelheadedness prevails.

    Glad the almost gluten free non dedicated facility manufacturer was so honest. Good for him & his company.

    However, now I’m sitting on pins & needles in the grocery store parking lot waiting on my sweet wife AND the details of the next episode of Bart’s Escapades.

    Hap

    PS Hang on to that “before 50 – last 40 something year” as long as you can! All h€!! didn’t break loose for me until 50 and now it’s taken until almost 54 to recover, but recovering I am. Now I remember why June 22 was marked on my calendar along with the 29th for my Mom & 30th for my sweet wife.

  2. Mistakes can be made in packaging and labeling. Talenti Gelato made a doozy a few months ago on some non-GF gelato packaging and they announced it publicly, apologized and products were recalled, etc. One part of the package said GF and the ingredients listed “wheat”. It was a mix up on a few packages
    but a skilled label reader would have known not to eat ice cream with cookies in it anyway It is unfortunate when it happens, but if we read labels carefully, we can usually avoid a gluten mishap.

    This is just another solid lesson in “label reading 101.” 🙂

    And I am very glad you gave the man a chance to explain.

    Sometimes, things are not what they seem. Not everyone is malicious or nefarious. Sometimes, humans make mistakes.
    But whenever someone owns up to a mistake and is sincerely sorry and makes amends, it is our job to forgive the transgression and move on…. for our own sake as well as theirs.

    And just to be fair: a shared facility is not the same as shared lines and a 5ppm reading is a good thing. Most GF people can eat those brownies and be fine. (but not me)

    1. “label reading 101.”

      — Sigh – out of all the classes we’ve completed, wish I could have skipped that one; however, it is now required study with those other 2, including Tax, which we can never avoid for the Celiac Community. (Happy I can still see the label to read it – there’s always a bright side!)

    2. “But whenever someone owns up to a mistake and is sincerely sorry and makes amends, it is our job to forgive the transgression and move on…. for our own sake as well as theirs.”

      Bart…are you listening? 🙂

  3. Sue in Alberta

    Well done, Dude. Having this happen right on the heels of the “Bart Fiasco of June 2014” (not to be confused with every other Bart fiasco) it would have been natural to take the guy to task. By giving the guy a chance, he’ll correct the mistake and probably be more vigilant in the future AND it was all done without a blood-letting. This is a good reminder for me to curb that knee jerk reaction.
    As Irish stated, it is another example of “label reading 101”.
    Class move, Dude.

  4. Just to be clear, are they gluten free brownies that are incorrectly labeled with the ingredient list from regular brownies, or are they regular brownies incorrectly labeled as gluten free?

    I’m guessing the former, but I’m not certain.

  5. Way to go Dude!
    And a way to go the the brownie guy, being responsible is always cool!

    Also this sort of thing reminds me to read the entire Label!!!!!!!!
    Just because it says gluten free doesn’t always mean it is.

      1. This is something that many people can’t seem to embrace.

        ABSOLUTELY it is our responsibility to look before leaping. Anytime we pick up a package or walk into a restaurant, we are making the choice to put ourselves at risk. We have to be the savviest consumers on the planet! Read, ask, decide what’s best.

        People want it all spelled out for them, but reliance on the phrase “gluten free” is going to bite every single one of us on the butt at some point. And labeling water “gluten free” is unnecessary and perhaps lulls GFers into a false sense of comfort.

        Above all else, “gluten free ingredients” is not the same as “gluten free preparation”. That bacon and eggs is naturally GF, sure!…but when prepared on a griddle that just made six orders of wheat flour pancakes, it’s a bout of diarrhea and brain fog in your future.

        We can’t expect people to do all this just for us. We can be grateful for those that do it right. And we should make those who do it half-assed aware that we’d rather be offered nothing than food that is consistently cross contaminated with gluten. I appreciate an honest “I am sorry, we can’t do that” rather than a “sure, we can make anything GF!” …. only to find out later that they made the GF pasta in the same water as the wheat pasta.

        We all “get schooled” from time to time.
        But you can bet your GF ass it makes you a whole lot wiser.

            1. Well said Irish Heart!

              The current slap a “gluten free”on the label makes me crazy!

              Then you have to search for where it says prepared in a facility that also has wheat flying around and landing on every surface!

              Damn gluten free craze! I can wait for this fad to be over.

              Good to know about the water. 🙂 I am somewhat surprised that my bottle doesn’t have a label.

            2. Shannon,
              The new law should help us out a bit, but it still comes down to
              reading the label, considering the source, trusting certain companies (there are quite a few of them actually!) and a whole lot of common sense. 😉
              Cheers, IH

        1. This. I totally agree IrishHeart. We are ultimately responsible for the risks we are not (or knowingly are) willing to take. My assessment may be different than the person next to me, but in the end, I have to experience my celiac, not the manufacturer or anyone else.

          1. To clarify, in my view I am responsible, but I need to have accurate information. If a company can claim it is gluten free when it makes a product that has less than 20ppm, and legally can say it doesn’t have to disclose something, then I don’t have the information I need to take responsibility. It isn’t always practical or feasible to do the leg work investigating myself – I don’t have the resources or authority to do so. To me, GF must mean GF – no gluten at all. Free means free. Not this X ppm or shared facility or lines that have have a CC risk. If I know what kind of facility, ingredients, and supply lines there are, I can make an informed decision.

  6. Sounds like a good company to do business with..but as you always say check the labels. I called a company on a recipe on their box of gluten free grits that called for wheat flour. Mistakes happen.

  7. Well they sound like the kind of people who actually care about the welfare of their customers! These things happen.

    I do want to hear about that conversation with Barts Bakery though….!

  8. It’s always good when honest people and companies act the right way. Hey, we all make mistakes sometimes, right? I love the fact that he owned up to it immediately. If I knew of a store that supported his business ’round these parts I’d pick up a cookie or two in support.

  9. Since the cookie itself is gluten free this is a minor mistake. I’m sure the owner of the company was glad to hear from you.

    Clearly he’s not a jerk and isn’t going to go and do something stupid, like, oh I don’t know, make a web site trashing you? Doing something foolish like that would just make him look like an ass!

    So CLEARLY this guy has CLASS!

    Right now he’s probably saying to himself…
    “Who was that masked gluten dude? I didn’t even get to thank him”

    Glad to hear that you could help him and the gluten free community, Ke-mo sah-bee! Thanks again Gluten Dude!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ke-mo_sah-bee

  10. I’ve always been a fan of, and practitioner of, TELLING people when something’s not right – we’re all human, and things get by us. Therefore, TELLING store or restaurant staff that restrooms are out of TP or towels instead of just carping about it. TELLING the gas station when the pump doesn’t seem to shut off properly and splashes some gas. CONTACTING Customer service when there’s an obvious labeling error (as GD just did so well), or the damn package is impossible to open, or whatever (sometimes companies send coupons for free products, even). Etc.

  11. I pointed this out on the facebook post but this has bothered me so much I decided I had to post it here too. This labeling issue is about so much more than just gluten. Any ingredient in the gluten free brownie which is not labeled in the gluten ingredients list is now a potential allergen being overlooked. Whether it’s something less known like quinoa or rice allergies (believe me, those exist), or the large scary fact that there are no ‘wet’ ingredients listed on the package… which begs the question if it contains more dangerous allergens such as eggs or dairy. Consumer safety needs to be at the forefront and unfortunately, no matter how sorry the company might be for the mistake, this really should be dealt with through the FDA so that a recall can be done.

  12. I agree with you about the eggs and the milk–they should be listed if they are in the ingredients– but I cannot get behind your assertions about all the other “potential allergens”.

    The Truth in Labeling Law. of 2004 regarding food allergens states,

    “(A) the eight major foods or food groups–milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans– account for 90 percent of food allergies;
    (B) at present, there is no cure for food allergies; and
    (C) a food allergic consumer must avoid the food to which the consumer is allergic;”

    Therefore, the top major allergens should be listed on packages now, including milk and eggs. It’s the LAW.

    But, you cannot seriously expect companies to put an “alert” for any other “potential” allergies that may or many not affect a minute percentage of the population?

    Rice is the most hypoallergenic food on the planet.
    It would be extremely rare for someone to have a rice allergy and even if they did, they should not be consuming ANY packaged products because of the potential for anaphylaxis.

    I mean, how far do we carry this? Do companies also have to source every ingredient for everyone? tell us where the spice originated, etc? who picked the strawberries, etc? Soon, no one will produce anything packaged (which may or may not be a good thing, but that’s a whole ‘nuther discussion 🙂 )
    Sorry, but I think that’s just impractical.

    IMHO, of course.

    http://www.truthinlabeling.org/food-allergen-labeling…act-of-2004.html

    http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm2006828.htm

    1. IrishHeart, I’m a huge fan of yours. I just had to get that out of the way first. 🙂

      I completely understand your point. I would never expect a company to list a huge allergy panel outlining every possible product that could set off a reaction. What I do expect is that the ingredients be listed, so a consumer can make an informed decision before they purchase the product. It is absolutely illegal for a product to contain ingredients which are not listed on the ingredient panel, whether or not they are top allergens. It frustrates me that a company would try to cover up a mistake instead of putting safety first.

      1. Hi Dani 😉

        I think we all agree on this: all ingredients should be listed and there should be a “contains” line showing the allergens–according to the law.

        I do hope you see my point, though about the “potential allergens”…there’s just no way for companies to do that. They can only list the ingredients and it’s up to the consumer to decide whether it is okay or not.

        For example, If I know something has MSG in it, I can’t have it. I have become very good at seeing MSG and all its incarnations on labels. That one is on me for watch out for, IMHO or I’m getting a migraine and fat fingers and feet the next day.

        Cheers!

        1. Hi Irish, we are on the same page. My key point is that in this particular case, with this manufacturer who made the mistake and mislabeled the product by placing the gluten ingredients on the gluten free package should be contacting the FDA. Consumer safety should be first, and it’s a little appalling to be honest that they’d try to hide it. Just because gluten isn’t the issue doesn’t mean the product isn’t still a potential danger (especially considering the egg/milk possibility). When it comes to recalls, companies can work with the FDA to make the impact as little as possible (Class 3 vs Class 1) while still removing the product from the market.

          This should have nothing to do with the fact that the company owned up to the mistake to GD, but everything to do with the fact that there is still mislabeled on the market and they are making no effort to remove it (beyond hoping helpful customers will purchase it). I really don’t want to be rude but this is business (and consumer safety!) and they need to be professionals.

          Just my two cents – I’m done now. 🙂

          1. There’s no question that the label (GF issue/mistake aside) is an epic fail. There are certainly more ingredients in that product than what is listed there. We all understand that part.

            I am thinking this owner is already making the changes he needs to make. No one likes to have public scrutiny.

            I say: let’s look at this as a score for awareness, human kindness and effective change.

            Have a great weekend everyone!

            1. I must admit that as I was reading this exchange last week, I was surprised to hear that there was such a thing as a rice allergy. But wouldn’t you know, I just came across this April 2013 article about an NHL hockey player who has a rice allergy.

              http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=664499

              That was a new one for me.

              Since this is a GF blog, I’ll balance this post by pointing out that former NHL journeyman Tom Kostopoulos, who played in over 600 games with six teams in his 11-season career, is a celiac. He became an advocate fairly late in his career after keeping his disease private for many years.

              http://www.glutenfreeedmonton.com/2011/12/calgary-flames-tom-kostopoulus-on.html

              He also became a spokesperson for the Gluten-Free Certification Program in Canada:

              http://vimeo.com/58820570

              (One might find fault with the rather wooden acting but his heart’s certainly in the right place.)

    2. Hi Irish and GD. First please excuse my brain fog (among other symptoms…ugh) due to somehow being glutened most likely by some kind of cross-contamination. Your first link I got an “page not found” but the second one for the FDA I read and searched as best I could. Here’s my question. As an avid label reader for decades I’ve noticed that many things labeled gluten free have a disclaimer at the bottom stating “Made in a facility that also produces …*insert allergens*. Is this a law that companies have to comply with such as the product in this post? I couldn’t find an answer and I’d seriously love to know. Thanks 🙂

      1. Hi Mary, so sorry about the broken link, I worked when I put it there…that’s weird. 🙁

        After the list of ingredients, a “Contains: ” followed by a list any of the 8 common allergens that may be in the food, for example:
        Contains Wheat, Milk, Eggs. is MANDATORY.

        “May Contain” statements–these are voluntary and are not regulated by the FDA and the “made in a facility that also produces….” is also voluntary.

        “When you read labels, you will also run across cautionary statements about shared machinery or production facilities. Sometimes called “May Contain” statements, these are voluntary and are not regulated by the FDA. They will usually say either, “Made on equipment that also processes wheat,” or “Made in a facility that also processes wheat.” They can even show up on products with a gluten-free label.

        It is hard to know how to interpret these statements because some companies use them broadly without evaluating how much risk there really is. Foods made in shared facilities or on shared lines can sometimes be handled in ways that still prevent them from containing significant levels of gluten cross contamination, as testing by certification organizations has proven. And a company can be using shared lines or facilities and simply not say so on the label.”

        http://www.glutenfreeliving.com/the-magazine/featured-stories/how-to-read-a-food-label/

        1. As always, thank you Irish. Good to know. I’m sooo careful because I’ve developed allergies to many other foods that I always read labels. I’ve always been very health conscious so even before I was dx’d with celiac I always read them so I’m no stranger to doing that…it’s just now extremely imperative that I do so. I usually only eat food I make myself and when ever I do actually eat at a restaurant..even one I know is usually safe..I ask the usual 20 questions about how food is prepared.

          I’m dealing with several health issues/complications after decades of being misdiagnosed like you and so many others. While I love how JE says, “Food is to be enjoyed and not feared” I get a little frightened sometimes when I get sick. It takes a heavy toll at my age and sets me back in the healing process I’ve been on which includes a leaky gut among a few other things.

          At this point I’d still rather be safe than sorry but there are times when I’m too exhausted or hungry to cook every single thing I eat from scratch and run out of things I’ve prepared and frozen.
          If you can shed some of your insight on this I would really appreciate it. “It is hard to know how to interpret these statements because some companies use them broadly without evaluating how much risk there really is. Foods made in shared facilities or on shared lines can sometimes be handled in ways that still prevent them from containing significant levels of gluten cross contamination…”

          I’m tired of getting paranoid after episodes like the one I’m having now, though I think I’ve figured out how it happened this time which had to do with where I work. must. be. more. diligent.

          1. Mary,
            I think the final paragraphs of that article are the most illuminating.

            “The bottom line is that while food labeling has gotten better over the years, with more disclosure and reliability, there is room for improvement. The lack of an accepted definition for the gluten-free label is a drawback. We will all be able to have a higher degree of confidence in the foods we eat when the phrase “gluten free” is defined. Here are just a few reasons why the label will be helpful:

            For the first time everyone will know exactly what “gluten free” means.
            You will not have to wonder how much gluten from cross contamination might be in your gluten-free food.
            You won’t have to be confused about so-called “may contain” warnings.
            You should not have to question any so-called “questionable ingredients” in gluten-free food.

            All food makers will have to play by the same rules and meet the 20 ppm limit.
            Companies that do not take steps to guarantee gluten-free products will be weeded out.
            Gluten-free food may be more readily available to everyone.
            The 20 ppm standard is increasingly being accepted around the world.”

            1. And about that “GF definition”–

              The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in August 2013 that it would define “gluten-free” as containing less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

              Manufacturers will be legally allowed to label a food “gluten-free” even if that food contains an ingredient that’s made from wheat, barley or rye (or a crossbreed from those grains) as long as it has been processed to remove the gluten down to below that 20ppm level.

              As of the day the new rules were announced, the FDA said that most manufacturers — 95% or more — already were following the rules. However, the FDA gave companies a year to come into compliance.

              http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/glutenfreefoodshoppin1/a/FDA-Gluten-Free-Food-Label-Rules.htm

        2. Thank you so much Irish. You are right that with the mix of voluntary/required labeling and lack of clear standards for definitions, it is confusing to interpret what one sees – or doesn’t see – on a label. Particularly for me is the shared facility and shared lines, that is something that I struggled with for a while figuring out if the absence of the statement meant it was a GF facility, or that the manufacturer did not have to state what else was processed there.

          I am of the ‘give all the plain up front information and data and then allow for an informed decision’ group. My risk tolerance is pretty much zero, as is my reaction to gluten (even the most minute amounts get me), but someone else may be different. Give us the accurate info – full disclosure – and then let us decide. So the labeling info you give here is super helpful.

  13. Julie Rumreich

    Really refreshing to have someone not only own up to their mistake, but to care that they made a mistake! Love how you both handled it! Thanks for all the work you do!

  14. GD-

    Great post. So glad that the owner stepped up and realized the seriousness of his mistake. I really believe that when most people are confronted with a mistake they made will correct it and apologize accordingly. Huh. I wonder if we could get Bart into like a etiquette school, do they still have them….

    Happy Father’s Day Dude, hope you realize how much we appreciate you…

    XO-
    Jersey Girl
    ———————————————————————————–
    “Here everybody has a neighbor
    Everybody has a friend
    Everybody has a reason to begin again.”
    “Long Walk Home”

    1. JG, Great comment. I believe the same as you do. Love the etiquette school idea too 😉
      Good reminder for Father’s Day…have a great one Dude and thank you for all you do for us!

  15. What I find pretty interesting is the request to buy all of the brownies you can and then, apparently, either contact him through GD, or mail him at the address on the package for return compensation. A sort of strange and casual recall.

    I’m not judging whether it’s appropriate or not. The brownies are okay as far as gluten, the problem being we wouldn’t buy or eat them due to the mistake, without knowing what we now do. So not our loss. I wonder if any milk and eggs omission is part of the labeling error; my guess is it is. It’s a little tougher to notice that aspect (of the error). It shouldn’t be that hard to know where the brownies went and make a few calls. He’s probably doing that. But why not ask the customer to let the store manager know so he/she can deal with it?

    Just a little strange, that’s all.

  16. I keep running into these restaurants that don’t have a clue about contamination issues, but I am afraid if we make too much of a stink they will just discontinue their gf menu listings… Thoughts?

    1. If they are just putting GF items on the menu to draw in business
      and not paying attention to safe prep and continually making GF patrons sick, then discontinuing the GF menu offerings would be
      a great idea!!!

      After I told a local cafe rather nicely that they were preparing their GF items unsafely, they did nothing to change the kitchen prep areas. I even offered to help them make the changes, but they were not interested. So, they lost my business, but what about all the other GF people going in there and eating that cross -contaminated food? Is that okay? NOPE. If I had the time and energy, I’d picket out front. Makes me livid just thinking about it.

  17. Interesting exchange between you and the company, and glad they were ready to take responsibility for the error rather than making excuses. Open lines of communication make such a difference. Scary that these things happen though, and shows as everyone says that there is no excuse for not being vigilant.

    I get nervous though thinking what if in another situation (another company, another day, etc.) the label was “totally wrong” so that the full GF label (saying GF, showing GF ingredients) was on a G brownie. All the label reading in the world wouldn’t save the situation.

  18. Say, what do most of you think of the NoGii bars as far as being safe? I have not heard any bad comments regarding these bars.

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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