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!)
10 thoughts on “What should the punishment be for poisoning people with celiac disease?”
I believe an appropriate punishment would be restitution! A public apology should be made by The Villians responsible, and they should be giving consumers an option – “Refund, including shipping, or Coupon to replace items purchased”!
Coupon: “Good for one package of GF Tortillas – Customer’s Choice of Brand”. Any store and no expiration date!
Unfortunately, companies seem to listen more attentively when you hit them in the wallet. It’s a sad state of affairs!
It is indeed Sheila.
What are the gluten test strips and where to get?
May as well dream big…
Mandatory random testing of facility, and before packaging of goods, by oversight group.
Public register of g-f companies, and compliance record.
Fines for transgressions.
Have the company cover any medical costs associated with being glutened/poisoned.
Oh…I like that!
First problem? The use of the term “gluten free” by itself – other than the 20ppm rule, it’s cloudy, at best. The term “certified gluten free” is different and both expensive/difficult to obtain from a certifying agency like GFCO or NCA, or others. The site is inspected and that’s just the beginning. I have never understood how a company can stick a gf label on their product without visible evidence of having been tested. I did do some research and “shared lines” means the gf product is done first and lines are sterilized at the end of each run. While that is fine for some, it isn’t for everyone. Having wheat stored in a facility even a mile away at the other end of a building it must be declared. Stricter rules for the application of gf on a label might solve the problem. As for punishment? Without enforcement by FDA, and witj no teeth in the law, it’s likely a voluntary effort on behalf of the company. I believe they must make some sort of restitution – refunds for products returned to a store, monetary compensation and coupons for free goods elsewhere??
This is disgusting.
In my mind I think what happened was, someone convinced them of a common myth: that it’s not the gluten, it’s the FODMAPs and told them to use pure gluten to texturize their food. This poisonous myth has been said to me in restaurants, by product reps, on forums, and some people have even written articles to that effect. The evidence would fit the crime.
Some years ago, a man was jailed for 10 years for selling wheat bread as gluten free in NC. He came up with elaborate explanations of “contamination” to explain the effect and said it was fixed, fooling people into buying more bread, sickening children over and over.
So I think this needs to be investigated by the local public health department and police as a potential crime. Injuring people with food claims intentionally is an injury, and fraud is fraud.
Here it is, the fraud case that got jail time: https://www.wral.com/news/local/story/9424545/
Honestly? There should be monetary recompense for anyone sickened by this. I hope for the first time EVER the ambulance chasers take this one to court.
I mean it meets the negligence criteria immediately. It likely means the “Strict products liability” criteria too. And the “breach of warranty” criteria. Between the three of those criteria, they have to be in a state that has at least one out of three.
Companies only listen when money is involved. They’ve clearly already shown they have a reckless disregard for their customers. Suit is the only one to go.
And not that I hope anyone dies from this, but I would bring murder charges on them for that. Because they are willfully and intentionally disregarding the health and safety of their customers.
You should check out what’s been going on with Batter Than Good Bakery out of Oklahoma. Bex Cassilas POISONED so many people. What is her punishment?!