Archive for February, 2011
Today the NFCA office gathered together for one of our special birthday lunches. The guest of honor? Our very own Healthcare Communications Manager Kristin Voorhees!
I so love these rare occasions when we all sit down together for a half hour or so to eat, open presents, and enjoy each other’s company. Today’s lunch celebrating Kristin’s 26th was particularly special for me, because we have become such close friends both inside and out of the NFCA office.
Over today’s lunch of sushi and avocado salad, Kristin opened some fantastic birthday gifts from the gang, including a drop dead gorgeous cookbook from Beckee, cleverly named “Food Porn Daily”.
(Having recently released our Sex and the Celiac video, the group got a chuckle out of the funny…and timely…title!)
Celebrating a birthday with a celiac can sometimes be a challenge, especially when it comes to the cake! I took on the role of finding one of Kristin’s all time favorites, and sadly, something she hasn’t had since being diagnosed with celiac disease: gluten-free carrot cake.
Fortunately for me, the wonderful folks at Sweet Freedom Bakery were able to make Kristin’s birthday wish come true, and we all enjoyed a decadent 2 layers of carrot, coconut, frosted, gluten-free goodness.
Special thanks go out to Heather Esposito and the Sweet Freedom Bakery team for making my friend’s birthday celebration a gluten-free success.
If only I could have them come to my kitchen to help with the dinner party I’m throwing for Kristin on Friday night – I am very nervous about cooking my first gluten-free lasagna!
Just desserts. That’s what I ate for dinner last Thursday night.
There was chocolate. There was sugar. There was even heavy cream. It wasn’t the least bit healthy, but sometimes you just have to chalk it up to a good time and plan to balance it out tomorrow.
Why so many sweets? Well, I scored a spot in a Gluten-Free Dessert Class at Sur La Table, hosted by pastry chef Monica Glass. If you haven’t heard us gush over her before, Monica is the chief dessert maker at 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge in Philadelphia, also known as the site of a scrumptious Blogger Breakfast held before Appetite for Awareness 2010. Monica whipped up gluten-free French toast for the bloggers, then hopped over to Appetite for Awareness, where she demoed a dessert using pears. They were sophisticated dishes that seemed to be more “watch and enjoy” rather than “do it yourself,” but I was content to smile and nod.
Lo and behold, those pears were part of the curriculum. In addition to Gingered Pear Panna Cotta and Poached Pears, we would be making Chocolate Hazelnut Tarts, Chickpea Shortbread and 10 Arts’ infamous Chocolate Fudge Brownies. (A heck of a menu, right?)
There were about 14 of us in the class, divided into two tables. My group worked on the panna cotta and shortbread, while the other group made the poached pears and tarts. We all made the brownies.
As we worked, I naturally inquired what brought each attendee to the class. Almost everyone was affected by celiac disease in some way, whether they had it or a family member did. And while none of us had met before, we managed to find connections in the group. Todd and Tracy had been at Appetite for Awareness 2010 and knew one of NFCA’s Board members. Linda was one of the all-stars who volunteered at Appetite for Awareness. Amanda, one of the few who didn’t have celiac, was an aspiring pastry chef and knew the gals at Food for All Market, a gluten-free shop in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia I just happened to visit a month or so ago.
Maybe you’ve already experienced this at a support group meeting or gluten-free event. That “small world” feeling you get when it seems like everyone knows someone who’s crossed your path. There’s also an amazing sense of normalcy that goes along with it. The group talked about everything from symptoms, to misdiagnoses, to concerns about proper food prep when eating out. By the end, we joked around like old friends – a drastic change from the timid way we first approached the table.
Best of all? The class was pretty darn empowering. Some were experienced bakers; others were still learning the ropes, but we all agreed that the recipes, while gourmet, were easy enough to make at home. And, oh, did we reap the fruits of our labor…
When I think back over the past 6 years in the celiac community, there are highs and lows.
The highs: We have seen great improvement in the variety and availability of gluten-free foods. We can walk into our local supermarket and readily purchase gluten-free foods. Gluten-free has been named the 8th largest food trend for 2011, an increase from its No. 9 position in 2010.
Now for the lows: The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has not established a standard to define the term “gluten-free,” so there’s always that bit of doubt about the safety of our food. But, let’s not get discouraged.
Let’s review a little history of allergy and food labeling. In 2002, the Food Standards Australia/New Zealand announced that “all food labels will show the declarations of the presence of potential allergens in foods, such as gluten, peanuts and other nuts, seafood, milk, wheat, eggs and soybeans. In addition, all foods containing genetically modified materials must be labeled as such.”
In 2005, the European Union required manufacturers to identify 12 common food allergens including: celery, dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, mustard, peanuts, sesame seeds, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat, and their derivatives.
On Jan. 1, 2006, the U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) went into effect. As a result, the presence of eight allergens including dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat are now declared on ingredient lists.
Since the inception of FALCPA, the FDA has been developing a definition for the term “gluten-free,” as there is currently no approved legislation for U.S. food manufacturers or consumers. Once approved, labeling regulations will help U.S. consumers maintain a gluten-free diet by clearly designating which items are safe to eat, without confusion over potential cross-contamination. “As ordered by the FALCPA, a final rule on this definition was to be enacted by August 2008.”
So how’s the progress going?
On Jan. 23, 2007, the FDA published a proposed rule about defining the term “gluten-free.” The proposed rule included a 90-day public comment period, which ended on April 23, 2007. In addition to public comments, the proposed rule called for a safety assessment related to gluten exposure in individuals with celiac disease, which would help guide the development of a definition for “gluten-free.”
Fast forward to today. It’s more than 4 years later and here we sit, still waiting for the final word. The celiac and gluten-free community is frustrated, and rightly so. What is the hold up? By establishing a U.S. definition for “gluten-free” and uniform conditions for the labeling of foods, the FDA will help ensure that persons purchasing U.S. products have accurate information. Shouldn’t this be a priority?
Bingo. In the midst of the blizzard that struck Philly a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Rhonda Kane, MS, RD, Consumer Safety Officer at the FDA. I asked her for the scoop. Rhonda assured me that the FDA has been working diligently on a safety assessment related to gluten exposure and celiac disease. Once the report is finalized, FDA plans to share the safety assessment with the public and reopen a comment period so individuals can help decide how this assessment will be used in defining “gluten-free.”
So, that’s where we stand.
The public comment period has yet to be reopened, but I’d like to hear some opinions now. Keeping our families safe is top of mind for all celiac sufferers nationwide and worldwide, so let’s make this an ongoing discussion. What do you think should be included in the definition of “gluten-free”?
T minus one month and counting. I am really looking forward to Natural Products Expo West in March. As you may have read in our February newsletter, Alice is facilitating an exciting panel about the gluten-free marketplace, including a segment on food safety and testing by Quality Assurance International, the nation’s largest certifier of organic labeling claims.
We will be setting up shop with our partner, the distributor Tree of Life (a KeHE company), where Beckee will be talking to both retailers and manufacturers about opportunities in the gluten-free marketplace.
Expo West is always an exiting trip because the gluten-free industry has grown up within the natural and organics category. And it’s where you can really see the explosion of tastier and more nutritious food.
Speaking of nutritious, Alice will also be a featured speaker at an ingredient and food technology conference discussing the movement of the marketplace to high quality and nutritionally dense foods. She will be accompanying GREAT Business Association member Penford Food. The company produces a starch that improves taste, texture and shelf life when used in baking.
While baking is not my thing, I do rely heavily on the bakers I know for my daily carb fix. And thank God for Whitney’s chocolate stash in the front office!
In keeping up with the love and sex theme of February, I have a story to share. Yes, it involves celiac disease and don’t worry, it’s PG!
While out on the town earlier this month, I began chatting with a guy who at one point asked what I do for a living. When I mentioned the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), he smiled and said, “Yea, I have a friend on a gluten-free diet.”
I asked whether the person was diagnosed with celiac disease. He answered no, but proceeded to narrate perhaps the best gluten-free story I have heard in a while (or possibly ever).
It turns out that his friend on a gluten-free diet is a 24-year-old male who experienced digestive problems, including constipation, diarrhea and bloating. Consequently, he noticed his libido was lacking, and his performance in the bedroom was subpar. He remembered reading somewhere that the gluten-free diet had a reputation for alleviating such digestive symptoms, and decided to try it out.
The result? A symptom-free male who could return to the bedroom.
The timing of this conversation was impeccable, as NFCA was just putting the finishing touches on Sex and the Celiac: The Movie. What a coincidence!
If you haven’t watched the video yet, I highly recommend it. (A big thanks to our buddies at imc2 for the awesome graphic!) The scenarios in the video are hypothetical, but as my chance encounter proves, they happen in real-life, too.
Do you know someone whose sex drive suffered due to celiac disease? Let’s hear about it! (PG rating appreciated.)
It’s the Friday before the Super Bowl, which for me (and I’m sure many of you) means it’s time to figure out what I’m going to feed the crowd. Typically, I crank out some nachos, the boys order a pizza, and we’re set. But when you or a fellow football fan is gluten-free, snacktime takes a bit more planning. Fortunately, blogs have been parading their gluten-free Super Bowl recipes and tips for the past week, so there are plenty of options to keep everyone happy.
If you’re looking to step up your game, try some of Chef Oonagh Williams’ gourmet Super Bowl recipes in NFCA’s Seasonal Gluten-Free Recipe Box. Gluten-Free Buffalo Chicken Soup puts a new spin on the beloved dip, and by serving it in bowls you can avoid the risk of cross-contamination. Pair it with Oonagh’s Savory Cheesy Bread and no one will miss the gluten.
For a more traditional feast, try Ranch Sliders, Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip, BBQ Chicken Pizza or Mini Mac & Cheese Cakes. Foodista also has a quick list of some classic and not-so-classic gluten-free Super Bowl recipes (where do you buy green sesame seeds?).
Of course, you have to wash that all that food down. While I prefer to reach for a cider, beer drinkers in Colorado can rejoice in a new gluten-free option from New Planet Beer. The company unveiled Off Grid Pale Ale earlier this week. Anyone outside the distribution area can still swill a gluten-free brew (Redbridge and Bard’s are among the popular choices), and it looks like gluten-free Super Bowl attendees will be right there with them: New Planet’s blog reports that Cowboys Stadium is BYO when it comes to gluten-free goods.
Menu planned. Food purchased. Now the only question is, where’s the party at? If you’re hosting at home, you’ll probably have more control over cross-contamination risks. At a friend’s house, gluten particles could be lurking on something as harmless as a veggie plate. To help you avoid an unpleasant second half, Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery posted some tips from a recent NFCA webinar. Keep these pointers in mind, especially when the party isn’t strictly gluten-free.
Got any tips or dips to share? Post a comment below!