Gluten-Free Call To Action

I received the following from two people who I really respect in the gluten-free community.  Please read.  These pretzels won’t be entering my house and I hope not yours either.

————

Are you willing to be poisoned?  For profit?

I apologize for the alarm, but where food safety and our health are concerned, silence is not an option. I hope you agree.

This month I met a senior executive of a food company that is launching a new gluten-free product. When I asked why their product was not certified gluten-free, I was discouraged (because I usually only eat products that are certified). As we discussed their reasons, and their casual and dangerous interpretation of what “gluten free” means,my stomach knotted, by blood pressure rose and I was moved to write a letter to their CEO.

Please read the letter, and join me and thousands of gluten-free consumers who will not be taken advantage of for profit’s sake.  The incredible growth of the gluten-free segment of the food industry is usually a positive development for those of us adhering to this eating style. But this growth also is fraught with perils, as uncaring, uninformed companies disregard our health in their eager attempts to capture their share of our dollars. I’ve long compelled my readers to not patronize companies that produce inferior products; to not compromise on taste. Nor should we blindly flock like underfed lemmings to the snack food aisle to purchase the latest “gluten-free” offerings…without proof of the companies’ commitment to protecting our health.

Until now, I had nothing against this company, but in light of what I learned directly from a senior executive, I feel nothing but an all-out boycott of this product by the gluten-free community will suffice.  We need to send a message that our collective purchasing power is powerful indeed. And that gluten-free consumers deserve the safety, care and accountability that marketing a product to us demands. Your swift and committed response will send a message not only to this company, but will serve as a warning to others who want to capitalize on us without doing their diligence.

Dont remain silent. Exercise your right! Voice your concerns by contacting the President and CEO of Snyder’s of Hanover directly, Mr. Carl Lee at SOH@snyders-han.com.

Then please pass on this letter to all those you care about who live gluten free. 

The gluten-free community is a tight-knit one, indeed.  Let’s harness the power we have in our numbers, and raise our voices.  We will not be exploited!

~jules shepard

——————————————————————————————

Mr. Carl Lee

President & CEO

Snyder’s of Hanover

VIA FAX 717-632-7207

March 26, 2010

Dear Sir,

Your company has undoubtedly identified the gluten-free segment of the food market as a high-growth opportunity. You are about to learn how vital truly gluten-free foods are to the health of this same population a population which can be very vocal when they think they are being taken advantage of and when their health is placed in jeopardy.

I met with your Vice President of Marketing at Expo West and engaged him in a discussion about your new gluten-free pretzels. I was initially excited about this brand new offering, but I soon became horrified at your company’s reckless disregard for the safety of the population to which you hope to market this product.

When I asked about why Snyder’s isn’t GF certified, your VP of Marketing, Rudi Fischer, brushed off the notion, explaining that the company had explored the requirements of certification, and “didn’t want the headaches” that came with it. He elaborated that Snyder’s didn’t want to have to do any product recalls or lose inventory because any given run may test at over 20 ppm gluten. He even threw out the example that if someone “forgot to wash down the line” between gluten and gluten-free runs, he didn’t want to have to “report to anyone else, pull inventory or do any recalls of product”. He went so far as to say that although the bags are currently labeled “Gluten Free” and also “Wheat Free,” the company is actually going to take off the “Wheat Free” designation since the products are run with wheat products and are potentially contaminated with wheat. Shockingly, he indicated that the “Gluten Free” label will remain, however.

Your VP also said your company is not really concerned with the gluten ppm test results since, he said, “only 3 million people are celiac, and most of them don’t even know it yet.” He identified your target market as “the other 22 million eating gluten free, just because.s” He indicated that this market segment wouldn’t really care if your products contained 20ppm or 23ppm gluten. Can he be serious? When I inquired as to why on earth Snyder’s would enter this marketplace (with this approach), he answered, “Because Glutino is making a killing with their pretzels.”

This 3-ppm increase in gluten could trigger any number of symptoms in celiacs, or in those who “merely” eat gluten free, ranging from painful gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and cramping, to nutrient malabsorption, painful skin lesions, joint inflammation, fatigue, infertility and miscarriage, and of course, headaches although apparently ours are not as serious as the headaches your VP indicated would come with gluten-free certification.

I spent the afternoon before the Expo speaking at the Healthy Baking Seminar to more than 130 manufacturers who wanted to get gluten free right. Small and large companies which are willing to invest in educating themselves about the onerous responsibility of gluten-free food safety as well as the market opportunity it represents.

They know, as I wish your company did, that gluten free is not just about a market opportunity. It is a responsibility manufacturers bear when they enter this marketplace. Did you do more than buy the SPINS report, or did you actually talk to gluten-free consumers? In any of your focus groups, did anyone say that a 3-ppm increase (or more) in gluten is acceptable? One-eighth of a teaspoon of gluten-containing flour can cause a chain reaction of painful symptoms in gluten-free consumers from which it may take weeks to recover. The manufacturers who take this responsibility seriously and produce good products — the ones who do it right — like Glutino, can make “a killing.” The ones who disregard the importance of the responsibility they bear, like Great Specialty Products (recently indicted in North Carolina on six counts of obtaining property by false pretenses by marketing bread as gluten-free that was not, in fact, gluten-free), will have far more to deal with than poor sales.

This is a critical juncture for Snyder’s entering this market. As you will see, all eyes are now on you; you have the opportunity to do the right thing. If your product recovers from this misinformed beginning, it will be by finding an organization who is willing to train and certify you and believe that when they walk out the door you will uphold their standards. It will also come from taking the time to understand your market and ingrain yourself into the gluten-free community by funding celiac research, by supporting efforts to raise awareness for the needs of the gluten-free community, and by proactively lobbying for tougher — not looser — labeling protocols. Take the high road and redeem your company, leading the category by example, or your “gluten-free” products will fail and much good will toward your company will be squandered.

 

Sincerely,

Jules E. D. Shepard

 


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6 responses to “Gluten-Free Call To Action

  1. I was truly disheartened when I read this entry. I have a hard time understanding this cavalier attitude about a disease. I too wrote Carl Lee and let him know that Celiacs are a growing market that will be around long after the fad dieters have gone on to something else. A market he will have lost due to their attitude and the very real likelihood of an incident that will ruin their reputation.

    I intend to let everyone I know they should be cautious at the very least when purchasing Snyder’s products. At best, they should stay far away.

  2. Sad as it is to say – I am not surprised. Look at how our society works. If there is a loophole, there is WorldCom, Enron, the mortgage crisis and now food industries to exploit it to make a quick buck.

    There is no care or concern about the impact their decision will have on celiac’s and those with gluten sensitivities.

  3. Pingback: Snyder’s Answers the Gluten-Free Community « Gluten Free Joy

  4. Absolutely not. They have already demonstrated their lack of concern and/or commitment and still show it by not offering to become certified. The occasional testing by a lab is just throwing a token at us. I don’t know the names of the different Labs but do we know if they were tested by a surprise or scheduled visit. Just because their facilities were clean at the time they were tested doesn’t mean they’ve changed their attitude.

  5. I received this email from Snyder’s yesterday. I’m not sure why they were required to not say they were pursuing certification when I’ve seen other companies make that statement but the end result is… Snyder’s is doing the right thing for the GF community.
    ***********
    April 1, 2010

    Based upon the responses received from members of the gluten free community to my letter of March 30, 2010, I understand that there are some additional questions and/or concerns that my previous letter did not address. Hopefully, this letter will shed more light on the situation.

    Snyder’s of Hanover has been working with the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO), a program of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), since September 2009. As of today, we are happy to announce that our Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks will be GFCO certified. Due to the nature of the discussions with GFCO, we were required to maintain confidentiality until the contract was finalized today. In my previous response, I was unable to further elaborate on and fully address your concerns until this process was complete.

    Our Hanover, PA baking facility was originally inspected and approved for gluten sanitation on July 16, 2009. Guidelines of the GF certification subject our Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks to ongoing gluten testing using GFCO-approved testing methods to meet the minimum GFCO standard of less than 10 ppm gluten in finished product. We also will undergo random manufacturing inspections to uphold the integrity of our gluten free certification. This testing protocol was developed by GFCO and Snyder’s will fully comply with this industry leading standard in all aspects of production.

    Our gluten-free pretzels have been in development for over a year and have undergone rigorous testing and modifications to ensure it met GFCO requirements and consumer taste standards before it was presented at EXPO West. We would never market a product that would intentionally or unintentionally harm our consumers, gluten intolerant or not.

    I apologize for what has been perceived as the cavalier comments of one of our associates. I assure you it is not the opinion or philosophy of the company or of the individual, as it was presented to you. Snyder’s of Hanover operates with the highest ethics; superior quality and safety dictate all that we do. We are committed to understanding and meeting the needs of you and all of our consumers.

    Sincerely,

    Carl Lee
    President and CEO
    Snyder’s of Hanover

  6. Thanks Sandra for posting your letter. I am happy Snyder’s is doing the right thing for all of us in the GF community. It will be interesting to see how well these pretzels do after all of this who-ha! ~Patty

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