From Ted Cruz’s “gluten-free MREs” comment to uncovering price hikes in foods labeled gluten free, here’s the latest gluten free news from the United States and United Kingdom.
Ted Cruz says no gluten-free MREs (US)
In what is being characterized as “lashing out against a culture of political correctness,” U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz got nasty in his recent speech aboard a navy ship in South Carolina. According to CNN, he said “the last thing any commander should need to worry about is the grades he is getting from some plush-bottomed Pentagon bureaucrat for political correctness or social experiments — or providing gluten-free MREs.” An MRE is a Meal, Ready to Eat, used as a field ration for troops.
Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are already disqualifying conditions for military service in the United States. (Source: Military Times) In fact, Military Times reports that an Army Sergeant’s commissioning has been put on hold because of his celiac diagnosis, which occurred during his Army service. The winner of several awards for his exemplary service and leadership is now waiting to hear whether his career will be stalled permanently because of a non-life-threatening medical diagnosis.
What Senator Cruz seems to be suggesting is that even exemplary service isn’t enough for the United States military to make some relatively minor adjustments to allow an additional 1% of the population to serve in the military. When non-celiac gluten sensitivity is included in that number, it increases by 0.5% to 13% of the population, according to a 2015 review. This seems out of line with his own claim that he “has fought tirelessly to defend our nation’s servicemen and women.” Which one is it, Senator Cruz?
Why we should all move to Portland (US)
In a recent issue of the Portland Mercury (an alternative weekly based in Portland, Oregon), Morgan Troper brings us “Wheat is Murder: The Skinny on Portland’s Gluten-Free Renaissance”. He describes his early experiences with going gluten free (due to a celiac diagnosis in 2008), when the gluten free food offerings were slim (and expensive, and pretty much terrible.) But in 2016, he says, “the world is on my side.” He describes the local bakeries, cafes and restaurants offering up gluten-free goodness and ends with a top five list. Of course, he includes the obligatory “gluten sensitivity is fake” comments but presents them in a balanced way. I enjoyed the comments from a local (naturopathic) doctor who, quite wisely, notes that “the most accurate food sensitivity or food allergy test is how you feel when you eat it and how you feel when you don’t.” Take that, haters.
That gluten free label is costing you (UK)
The Daily Mail reports that consumers are being charged 50% more for foods simply because they have a gluten free label on them. They say this is occurring on foods like ketchup that are gluten free anyway. Other examples included pasta sauce, peanut butter, curry sauce and soup.
But then they lose their way, saying that up to 13% of Britons follow a gluten free diet when it’s estimated that only 1% actually have a coeliac diagnosis. They point to weight loss as a major motivation, when we’ve already established that 0.5% to 13% of the population may have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. They go on to compare a gluten, egg and dairy free mayonnaise to the regular kind – mayonnaise is made with egg, so of course an egg free version is going to be more expensive.
They get it back together in the end, reporting that representatives from the major grocery store chains in question all said that the higher cost for items labeled gluten free was due to production costs. The foods were produced in a way that avoided cross-contamination during manufacturing and meet the UK standards for gluten free labeling (less than 20 parts per million).
This is a valid point; while “naturally” gluten free foods like ketchup may appear to be gluten free, we don’t know anything about the processes they used. It could have been made on shared equipment that could allow for cross-contamination. So it’s really up to the consumer to make informed choices about when they opt for the more expensive “Free From” foods, which are required to certain standards to carry the label. Standard grocery items may be cheaper, but are not necessarily manufactured to meet gluten free labeling requirements.
What do you think about this month’s gluten free news? Are you as tired as I am of being treated like you’re faking it?