It’s a rare afternoon blog post but my head is about to explode and writing about it not only defuses my brain cells but will help answer this question: How can a company use gluten and still label their product gluten-free and not get severely punished?
While I know errors can be made and “one-offs” may happen (and yes…I still think there should be some form of discipline taken when this happens), I am referring to companies who obviously just don’t give a shit. And in today’s post, I am specifically talking about The Salsa Texan, who for the rest of this post, I will refer to as “The Villains.”
Before I go any further, credit to this story goes to the Gluten Free Watchdog, who has been responsible for calling this issue out, testing the product, and notifying the FDA. [A round of applause.]
Ok…first…who are “The Villains?”
From their Facebook page: The company was founded by ‘Stephen’ as he is a type 2 diabetic and he found himself having to give up his favorite things chips & salsa. Through research, he found that he could eat organic corn chips made from scratch (not from a tortilla) as long as they were baked. “The Villains” was born.
I took about the past 10 minutes and could not find a last name for Stephen. Take that as you wish.
What product has been poisoning the celiac community?
Their tortillas. See the pic at the top of this post.
What happened? What’s the backstory?
This is ugly. I know it’s the middle of the day, but you may want to grab a cocktail for this one. The following is taken directly from the GFWD website.
So GFWD got her hands on an item that was purchased in October, 2021. She tested it for gluten twice. The first sampling showed gluten content at >84ppm. For the record, anything labeled gluten-free MUST be less than 20ppm. Of course, there is no enforcement of this as it’s up to the company to test their own products. Don’t get me started.
The second sampling came back at 64,731ppm of gluten. No…that is not a typo. That is over 3,000 times the amount of gluten allowed in a product labeled gluten-free. GFWD reached out to “The Villains” and what was their response? Blah, blah, blah, blah. Oh…you want the real verbiage? Here you go.
Let me break this down for you. BBBBBBUUUUULLLLLSSSSSHHHHHIIIIITTTTT!!!!!
- It didn’t “possibly” contain “some” gluten. It contained an obscenely high amount.
- If they cared about the “well-being” of their customers, they would have tested the product BEFORE labeling it gluten-free?
- They have the stones to promote their other GF products in this same message.
Naturally, GFWD notified the FDA which sometimes seems like screaming into the abyss. In the meantime, GFWD purchased two more packages of the tortillas, except these were purchased outside of the recall window of August and September 2021, in May and July of 2021. And what did these test at:
– First batch: 57,449 ppm of gluten AND less 2 ppm of coconut protein (note they said they use coconut flour!)
– Second batch: 74,958 ppm of gluten and again less 2 ppm of coconut protein
Finally on March 18, 2022, the FDA announced that “The Villains” were ‘voluntarily recalling its regular and burrito sized packages of Coconut Flour Tortillas because they may contain undeclared wheat.’ I bolded the two words that are such utter bullshit.
On March 22, “The Villains” announced they are “TEMPORARILY not producing coconut flour/gluten-free tortillas”…and that they “are thrilled to be switching production facilities and working towards being CERTIFIED GLUTEN-FREE by June 2022. In the meantime, please enjoy our gluten-free chips, tamales, salsas and other items from our menu.”
So what happens now? Absolutely f***ing nothing.
“The Villains” will go on their merry way and their only punishment was a ‘voluntary’ recall. No fine. No temporary suspension of production. They’ll just keep on labeling items gluten-free, whether they are or not, because they can.
Our labeling laws in the U.S. are so pathetically weak and almost always protect the company over the consumer. So we the consumer have to establish our own form of punishment. And that is simply spread the word about these folks and DO NOT BUY ANY MORE OF THEIR PRODUCTS. Money talks…dangerous companies walk. And if you want to hit them up on their Facebook page, have at it but it seems they’ve been deleting comments/reviews. Shocker I know.
What kind of punishment would you like to see for situations like this?
Ok…back to your regularly scheduled programs. And for god’s sake, put the cocktail down. It’s the middle of the day! 🙂
P.S. It is also my humble opinion that any product that is produced on shared LINES should not be allowed to be labeled gluten-free. Shared facilities I’m a bit more flexible with (but I wish they would all just do it right!)