Lucy's Granola is ALMOST Gluten Free and Yet it's Still Safe for Celiacs? Really??

lucys gluten free granola not safe for celiacs

I’m not a mean-spirited guy. Honestly, I’m not. I’m a really nice guy. If I had friends you could ask them. (A classic line from the movie Splash.)

I don’t enjoy taking small companies to task. But if my choice is between calling out a company for their recklessness or ignoring the needs of the celiac community, I’ll take the company to task every…single…time.

lucys granola celiacWhich brings us today to Lucy’s Granola. Somebody on Facebook yesterday sent me the picture to the right. The arrows were my touch.

In case your eyes are as bad as mine and you can’t quite make it out, the package says “Practically Gluten Free”.

Although I got a laugh out of it, I didn’t think too much of it. I just figured it was a lame attempt to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon.

But then I checked out the company’s website and OH MY GOD!!

They have a Questions section on the site. A basic FAQ type of thing. One of the questions is “Can I eat Lucy’s Granola if I have Celiac Disease (gluten-intolerance)?”

And here is the scary answer: An emphatic “Yes!” Lucy makes a Gluten-Free Granola for those who can’t eat wheat or related products. She began making it when she herself was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. She replaced the wheat flakes, bran and germ with delicious gluten-free oats, seeds and the immensely popular addition of natural puffed rice.

I’m thinking…”Ok…that’s cool…she must have a completely gluten-free granola in her product line made in a completely gluten-free facility.”

So I hopped over to her products page. Every single one of her products contains both wheat germ and wheat bran. Every single one EXCEPT the “Practically Gluten Free” one.

Is that really the one she is talking about? Indeed it is.

Actually, on her site, even though the package says “Practically Gluten Free”, she simply calls it “Gluten-Free Granola”. It does not contain wheat germ or bran but instead gluten-free oats. But then there’s an asterisk that says “Made in a kitchen that processes gluten products.”

What kitchen? Ahhh…good question grasshopper.

Is it a big factory where perhaps they can keep the gluten products far from the gluten-free ones to minimize the cross-contamination?

Nope. It’s the kitchen in their home.

Each batch is made by hand by their family, including their teenage daughters and their six year old son (who stacks and counts).

And I found something even more interesting doing an image search on Google. The package used to say “Gluten Free”, not “Practically Gluten Free”. I can only assume she changed it when she received some complaints.

This really bums me out. I love small businesses. I especially love family-owned and operated businesses. In this greedy world of Wal Marts, Home Depots, Best Buys and tons of other mega-stores, I still root for the little guy.

But Lucy’s fails on multiple counts. Not only does she label her product gluten-free when it’s really not, she goes ahead and states that it’s completely safe for celiacs. This is just plain wrong.

So Lucy…if you are reading this, here is what I say to you:

I’m rooting for you. I wish you absolutely no ill will whatsoever. You seem like a good person. Heck, you even got a mention in the New York Times. Kudos to you.

But you must take down the verbiage on your site that says your granola is safe for celiacs. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Your granola is poison to us. People with celiac disease cannot risk eating your product and it is irresponsible for you to suggest otherwise.

Many thanks for listening and if I can assist you in any way possible, don’t hesitate to ask.

Gluten Dude

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57 thoughts on “Lucy's Granola is ALMOST Gluten Free and Yet it's Still Safe for Celiacs? Really??”

  1. Sigh.

    This kind of thing just makes me go…. HUH???

    Lucy, you mean well, but hon, you aren’t getting the concept about “cross contamination”.

    Your product is not safe for celiacs.

    “practically gluten free” is just absurd.

    It’s not safe for gluten intolerants, either.

    The End.

  2. Some days I wonder why I tend to avoid processed foods of any kind (and restaurants) and other days I know πŸ™‚ Sheesh. Where is her head at?

  3. Great post. Did you write to Lucy also?

    Some days I wonder, Do we really know where anything in a package comes from, how many hands have touched it, and what all it contains? I don’t know that I have that information about even whole food products that my family has consumed. Heck, even the stuff I pull out of my own garden is going to be contaminated by whatever contaminated the parent plant and whatever flies into my yard from a neighbour’s yard. It’s hard to find the strength to continue to fight these fights. It’s good to have you in the CD corner, Dude.

  4. Double sigh …

    Yes the “Gluten Free” bandwagon is a just a little more than scary ~ it is really hard for folk to understand it is life threatening. NO gluten is the only way to keep a Celiac healthy and thriving … I do hope she comes to understand this and changes her product advertising.

    Sigh … again …

  5. so it’s kinda sorta maybe “gluten-free” and “safe” for Celiacs? WTF? She needs to remove her head from her…well you get my drift. Ridiculous!

  6. I posted a link to this thread on Lucy’s FB page. and said I guess it’s not suitable for Celiacs. Too bad. I liked to support small business. They took it down in about 5 minutes.

  7. Well Gluten Dude that is another product in a long line of ones to NOT eat. Some people just don’t really know what it really means to be gluten free. Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow will hawk this product and make it double bad.

  8. When she made the change from “gluten-free” to “practically g-f”, she should have done more research. As someone gluten-intolerant, she should have done more research. BUT, it took me a while to grasp the extent of cross-contamination, and GF not necessarily being GF…while actively investigating all things Celiac, being a Celiac. So as with Rachael Ray, it’s about how she reacts to this current inquiry about her product. Which also serves as an examination of her own choices she is making with her health. It’s her turn under the spotlight, with an audience.

    I wonder if they took down Lima’s post because it contained a link, or because they didn’t want a GF debate to ensue. Or both. Either way, not an encouraging initial response. It’s hard not to circle around to a spot of anger on this one, when reminded so bluntly that there is a massive barrier many people have yet to get past in order to make this world, this marketplace of a world, safe(r) for everyone. Some of these people don’t want to; this can change with new awareness, but not in some of their lifetimes.

  9. Miss Dee Meanor

    When I first went gluten-free I could only find a few items that were marked gluten-free and only a couple of restaurants in our city that offered gluten-free options. I basically resorted to eating foods prepared from scratch in my own gluten-free kitchen and eating out at the one restaurant I could trust (the chef has a celiac in his family and understands cross-contamination).

    Now gluten-free is everywhere and almost every restaurant offers a gluten-free menu, but has anything changed? No. In my opinion it’s worse because everyone assumes it’s no problem to buy a product marked gluten-free and feed us a meal or take us out to any restaurant for a meal. At least when I first became gluten-free everyone knew it was a challenge to stay safe.

    My latest frustration comes from people who “are cutting back on gluten” to see if it makes a difference. If you’re gluten intolerant or sensitive, “cutting back” does nothing to prove whether or not gluten is affecting you and only leads to more misunderstanding by the public that a little bit won’t hurt. If I hear one more person quote “Wheat Belly” to prove they understand my diet I think I’ll explode. (But that’s a rant for another day…)

    Bottom line is that for me it is no easier to eat gluten-free today than it was when I first started this journey. In the beginning there were no labels regarding gluten. Now there are labels, but because companies are in a rush to cash in on the fad, I have no trust that they truly mean gluten-free.

    Thanks for letting me rant!

  10. I hope she knows how badly she may be damaging her own (and her potential customer’s) health in the short and long term. Her vague “gluten intolerant” diagnosis is odd, gluten intolerance is Celiac and is not a wheat allergy or wheat-specific intolerance.

    1. Julie- my husband was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. He is allergic to wheat, oats, barley, rye, corn, soy, etc in addition to many other things. If it has gluten, he reacts to it horribly. While we choose to treat him as if he’s celiac, that is not the official diagnosis.

  11. Miss Dee Meanor,
    I so agree! On the other hand one way it is easier than it was a decade ago is that Udi’s, Schaar’s, Tinkyada and other old and trusted dedicated gluten free companies that have been around since waaaay before the fad that we used to have to special order through health food stores or mail order (sometimes from overseas) is now available in my local chain grocery stores!

    1. Miss Dee Meanor

      I think we should point out that this product is not the same company as the Dr. Lucy brand..I’ve never eaten anything from Dr. Lucy, but the logo is similar and I would hate to see a legimate company falter due to the carelessness of another.

  12. WHY is it okay to poison a person with Celiac? The FDA is all over peanuts and organic products so how the hell can this be okay? I would never buy anything making claims about being “practically” anything but my god there has to be SOME research done before answering questions about peoples’ health. Do people really think gluten just gives some people a little rash or a tummy ache? So sick of hearing medical doctors call it an ALLERGY. Yes I am complaining. Because this is f—ing stupid.

    1. M
      I agree.
      And get just as frustrated when I hear a celiac call it a “gluten allergy”
      Technically, there is no such thing.
      One famous blogger and cookbook writer calls it that —and I cringe.

      Yes, I know some people use it just to be quick while ordering in restaurants, etc. –stating people seem to “get” the term allergy better–but if any of us are going to acquire the awareness about CD that we so desire, then we all need to be specific about calling it an autoimmune disease ourselves.

      I never call it an allergy and I am sure I annoy the hell out of people when I correct them, citing the distinction.

      But if we do not make sure it is completely understood, who will???

      1. I have a friend who recently discovered that both she and her two children are celiac. She insists on telling restaurants that she and the kids have a “gluten allergy” because she feels that the waitstaff is unlikely to know what celiac disease is, but that they should understand an allergy. I keep telling her that 1. Calling it an allergy may make the wait staff take you less seriously because they do know what celiac is and that it is not an allergy so they think you’re just following the fad and trying to make them take it seriously by calling it an allergy (she gets glutened in restaurants constantly!) and 2. There is no shame in educating waitstaff about celiac if they don’t know what it is. It is important and may help others in the future! I never hesitate to say “I need a gluten free menu because I have celiac disease” and if the waiter/waitress looks confused telling them “It’s an auto immune disease where my body attacks itself if I eat anything that contains wheat, barley, rye, or gluten extracted from those items.” If they seem dismissive after that, I have no problem just ordering something to drink and passing on the food. One of my favorite restaurants (Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse in Springfield, PA) has several staffers who are either celiac or have celiac in the family and they are super accommodating, down to offering to make me a salad from the fresh veggies in the kitchen when my meal comes with the salad bar because I don’t trust salad bars due to cross contamination from the customers.

  13. Miss Dee said this but I think it should be repeated. This is not Dr Lucy’s. I noticed when I googled ” lucy’s” that Dr Lucy showed up.

    Dr Lucy brand has a dedicated kitchen and tests for gf.

  14. UPDATE: Lucy has responded to me via email. Here is her honest response. I wish all companies handled things this way.

    Dear Gluten Dude

    Thank you so much for letting us know your concerns about our Practically Gluten Free Granola web site.

    As you have noted, our web site requires updating as it is using outdated images of our packaging and descriptions of our Practically Gluten Free Granola. We are immediately closing down the web site and updating it so all references to and images of this granola use the Practically Gluten Free title. We are also deleting all references to celiac disease or other issues relating to gluten intolerance. Thank you so much for noticing these problems and letting us know.

    For more than a year our granola has been labeled ‘Practically Gluten Free Granola’ as a way of cautioning our customers that it may not be completely gluten free due to being made in a kitchen that processes gluten products. We also state on the front of our bags that our Practically Gluten Free Granola is “made in a kitchen / facility that uses glutenous grains.” There is clearly a chance of cross-contamination of which we wish our customers to be aware so they can make an educated choice when choosing to purchase this product.

      1. Perhaps you should put this comment up at the top of the article so that people don’t have to scroll all the way through the comments to see that she answered promptly and did amend her site.

    1. Then why not JUST CALL IT “YUMMY GRANOLA” ???

      There’s nothing to be gained by labeling it “practically gluten free”–
      except the ire of those of us who find it ludicrous.

    2. Kudos to them for being responsive, and so quickly. And thanks for being such a constant advocate for these things, GD!

      I think that there’s a lot to be gained from welcoming the ‘practically gluten-free’ category: it’s financially beneficial to the companies (they can still get $$ from the fad diet folks, as well as those whose issues are milder), it underscores the fact that cross-contamination is a serious issue, and it clearly identifies the product as something I can’t buy. I’d be happy if a lot more companies embraced the language – it’s a lot more straightforward than what a lot of them currently use!

  15. Yeah, um, I’m practically skinny too.

    Seriously though, Gluten Dude, thank you so much for calling this company out! Absolutely ridiculous and is exactly why we need gluten-free labeling laws.

  16. I am actually sad to see this post…I have celiac disease and I’m super sensitive to cross contamination, so I totally agree that the verbiage on her website and packaging is misleading and should be changed. However, I wonder if we do more harm than good to our community by being so harsh about stuff like this.

    First of all, we have the responsibility to take control of our own health, so if we se a gluten free product, we should check to see what kind of facility it’s processed in, etc. and then make a decision for ourselves.

    Second, if we complain about things like this so openly, are companies going to want to try to produce gluten free products for us?

    Again, agreed that misleading information needs to be addressed here, but I’m sad to see such negativity toward someone who is probably just ignorant to the effects of their actions. Perhaps a private email to the company would be more appropriate, and if they don’t listen to our requests, there are plenty more gf granolas to choose from.

      1. I think we could definitely think of more positive ways to raise awareness πŸ™‚

        But I certainly understand if you don’t agreed. I know you’re trying to do something good here.

  17. Miss Dee Meanor

    Hi, Rachel. First let me say that I appreciate your compassion. I also wish this family success with their granolas and hope they are very successful.

    What pushes my buttons is when any vendor uses the “gluten-free” buzzword carelessly. Yes, I agree we are responsible for keeping ourselves gluten-free. However, think of those that aren’t as educated or new to being gluten-free. For example, what if your child has Celiac and goes to a friend’s house and is given this “practically gluten free” granola because the friend’s parent sees the words “gluten free” and doesn’t know to question? Or what if they did know enough to question and went to the website for more information and found that it stated it was safe for Celiacs as well as stating that the one marketing the product was gluten intolerant? That would give anyone a green light to eat it/serve it. I’m sorry, but in my opinion a mistake like this isn’t a small thing. This product may be sitting on someone’s shelf right now and a private letter to the company would never get the word out that it is unsafe to consume.

    You don’t see products using the buzzword “peanut free” on a package when their facility is covered in peanuts. Further, we don’t see them state on their website that it is safe for those with a peanut allergy. Why don’t they do this? Because someone with a peanut allergy can fall dead in a short amount of time so they aren’t going to risk it. I think the point is that the gluten kills us, too. Maybe not as dramatically as someone with a severe allergy, but it will kill us nonetheless. Until they make an epipen for Celiacs, we don’t have any line of defense after consuming an unsafe product.

    Again, I see that you are coming from a compassionate place. However, I think there does need to be more accountability from any company using the words “gluten free” on their product..practically or not.

  18. Miss Dee,

    I totally agree with your comments; I recently lost a very close love one to complications with Celiac Disease. I totally agree that vendors should not use the phrase “gluten free” carelessly, and I totally agree that it can be extremely dangerous for those of us with Celiac. I also agree that we should hold companies who are careless about this accountable.

    The only thing I disagree with is the manner in which we went about this. I, personally, think it is a bit harsh. You certainly don”t have to agree with me. Sure, one email may not have made a difference to them, but I think we could think of more positive ways to raise awareness of Celiac disease and to keep companies accountable. I really do think raising awareness of Celiac Disease is super important, it has saved my life and the life of many others. My opinion is that negativity does more harm to our community than good.

    1. I understand all you are saying, Rachel, but I simply do not think what the Dude said (or what most of us said for that matter ) is very harsh at all, sorry. No name calling and no vulgar language was used in his blog post and in fact, he took great pains to say the following:

      “So Lucy…if you are reading this, here is what I say to you:
      I’m rooting for you. I wish you absolutely no ill will whatsoever. You seem like a good person. Heck, you even got a mention in the New York Times. Kudos to you.

      But you must take down the verbiage on your site that says your granola is safe for celiacs. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Your granola is poison to us. People with celiac disease cannot risk eating your product and it is irresponsible for you to suggest otherwise.

      Many thanks for listening and if I can assist you in any way possible, don’t hesitate to ask.”

      I think he was downright polite. πŸ™‚

      I spend most of my waking hours advocating for celiac awareness and I am always respectful , but sometimes we have to shout to be heard.

      With all due respect, I do not see how a quiet email from the Dude to the owner of this small company would have made others “aware” of celiac or that the product is simply not safe.

      Now, she can take steps to rectify the problem.

  19. Agree to disagree πŸ™‚ Among other things, I think I picture of the company’s product with the caption “Epic Fail” is pretty harsh. Again, just my opinion. And again, I’m not suggestion a mere email, and I’m not suggesting we don’t “shout”. I am suggesting more tact and more positivity.

    1. Miss Dee Meanor

      Rachel, I totally agree with being positive and tactful. Two things I’ve learned is that you catch more flies with honey and that you don’t need to kill a fly with a sledge hammer. (Not sure why flies are in all southern analogies!)

      What I’m not understanding (other than removing the “epic fail” tag) is how you would have written this blog differently. I personally felt that Dude was pretty polite given the seriousness of claiming a product is safe for Celiacs when in fact it is not.

      How would you have handled this differently? How can we as a community warn consumers of unsafe products while still being positive and tactful? What specifically would you have done differently in this blog?

      Please know that I’m not being sarcastic or confrontational. I would just like to know your thoughts.

  20. To be honest, I’m not sure that I would have written a blog post at all. But I just want to reiterate that that’s my opinion. I know Gluten Dude has his own opinions on how to handle things and I respect the good he is trying to do.

    I agree with IrishHeart, his “letter” to Lucy’s seemed tactful enough. Why not post it on their Facebook page and ask readers to go and like it or comment that they agree? I would have participated in that. I’m sure you might disagree that that would be effective, again just my opinion πŸ™‚

    1. Miss Dee Meanor

      I actually do disagree with posting it on her Facebook page. The reason is that this issue does not affect or need to be presented to her fans that can safely consume gluten. (And this is the majority of those who buy her products and read her Facebook page.) I think posting the letter there and then sending gluten-intolerant people over to respond would have been perceived as an attack and truly reflected poorly on our community.

      On the other hand, to have not brought this to the attention of our community would also have been a disservice. Who knows how many Celiacs have bought or would have bought this product thinking it was safe because her website claimed it was?

      I feel the best place to address this was in his blog because it gives a warning to those of us who could be negatively impacted by this (his audience), but does not “call her out” in front of her patrons that just want good granola and have no cares about gluten (the majority of her audience). (Sorry, Dude. If I weren’t gluten intolerant I wouldn’t know you existed.)

  21. Not all of us “do” FB or tweet. Some of us are dinosaurs πŸ™‚

    and his blog is how we get our daily dose of dude.

  22. If I’d known that the bag had small print stating that it is made in a kitchen that uses gluten, this post would have affected me diffferently. The language on the web site (now removed) that the product is safe for Celiac was ridiculous. But with package in hand, the risk would have been detected. Those (thinking of) ordering off the web would have had to, by policy, shied away from this type of stuff, or called to get info on the facility; I hope that’s most of us, but why the doubt?

    But this is different than from earlier today when it seemed like there was no warning on the packaging or on the web site; other than the hint of “practically GF”. “Practically GF”, with a warning right below, is actually better than the ones that say simply “GF”, with a more complete contradiction in the finer print.

    I’m not too worried about any harshness here though, either, because she had to be advised to change the web site in more than one place. This from someone already employing the “practically GF” marketing strategy. People ought to take responsibility for their mistakes, and sometimes it comes with a little pain.

  23. If you google “Lucy’s Granola” and “gluten-free” there are still links to old versions of the website listing gluten-free granola. And it appears to still allow you to order the product. As an experiment, I tried going through the ordering process up to the point of entering my credit card information. Never did I get any kind of message saying the product wasn’t available. I don’t know enough about how the internet works but I’m sure there must be a way to remove these old pages….

  24. The New Lucy’s Website is up and running… if you go to the nutritional page you will see all the products listed, and sadly to say, she still has the practically gluten free list as an item for people to buy.

    “” Lucy’s Practically Gluten-Free Granola*

    >*made in a kitchen/facility that uses glutenous products

    Ingredients: Gluten-free oats, coconut, almonds, puffed rice, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, raisins, flax meal, canola oil, maple syrup, honey and salt. “”

    It makes me sad that this person can do this and feel comfortable with the possibility of making persons ill.

    I feel just as strongly as I have when DOMINO’s brought out their “gluten free CRUST pizza” –

    Wrong, Wrong, Wrong… A play on words to make money.

    Gluten free should mean GLUTEN FREE

    Again, this goes back to not having any specific ruling in the govt about the word usage of GLUTEN FREE.

    However, we do have one in the TTB with alcohol in the USA. It’s fantastic…. I think it was a major hurdle for anyone with celiac disease, or persons removing gluten from their diet for health reasons. To shorten the very long ruling and sum it up -> Any alcohol that uses a gluten containing ingredient can not use the term/label gluten free –FACT!

    and yet there is a BUT – there are compaines that are trying to get around this labeling. One in particular just makes my skin crawl…. you know — the gluten removing type beers are still being talked about as “gluten free” – On one specific website, the gluten removing beer, is using customer testimonials that says it is a gluten free beer and in my opinion it is to skirt themselves around the new TTB ruling… That is very confusing to many with Celiac Disease! Plus, it goes against everything celiacs are fighting for in every type of gluten free labeling. Double standard? I want those companies to have options to sell, but come on why are they getting away with this? I mean them no harm as well, and there is definitely a great market for this beer… but just clearly say – gluten removed and stop there, don’t use the gluten free term or permit anyone else to use Gluten Free on your website by posting that – because it is NOT according to the TTB new labeling law.

    Someone needs to call it like it is, maybe some of this madness will stop.

  25. the other half cat

    I am just finding this blog and LOVE IT! I know this thread is a little old but I am pouring over this post and blog with fury.

    When a product with this type of labeling is on a shelf, doesn’t your thinker kick into gear. It might say things to you like “ok, this is “””practically””” gluten free?” which might mean that there is a risk for cross contamination or “perhaps this is not certified gluten free” or “this particular product might not be completely gluten free”.

    I don’t know. I see this labeling as a pretty clear warning that this is not a certified gluten free product and to buy with caution. My sense of personal responsibly takes over and I see it this way, this product is ok for Gywneth and her fad dieter fans but not for those with real medical dietary needs.

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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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