by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Gluten

Jul 18 2017

Vatican says bread for Eucharist cannot be gluten-free

Food politics generally doesn’t usually get into matters of religion, but sometimes has to.   Today’s issue is whether bread for the Catholic Eucharist can be gluten-free.

No, it can’t.

As the New York Times explains,

The unleavened bread that Roman Catholics use in the celebration of Mass must contain some gluten, even if only a trace amount, according to a new Vatican directive.

The directive…affirms an existing policy. But it may help to relieve some of the confusion surrounding church doctrine on gluten…The issue is especially urgent for people with celiac disease…or for those with other digestive conditions that make them vulnerable even to small amounts of gluten… “The confusion can be great when these ‘breads’ are advertised as gluten-free alongside what are described as gluten-free but are in fact low-gluten altar breads,” according to the Catholic Church in England and Wales. “The confusion can also be the cause of great upset both to those Catholics who are allergic to gluten and to those who minister to them.”

People with celiac disease cannot eat wheat, rye, or barley, which contain gluten proteins.  If they do,  the gluten leads to a toxic product that causes severe damage to the intestinal tract and other serious symptoms.

About 1 out of every 133 people has this condition.  This prevalence has remained constant over time.  But the number of people consuming gluten-free diets has greatly increased.  This could be because people just feel better not eating bread and pasta, or maybe because their celiac disease has just not been diagnosed.

The Hartman group has a useful Infographic about gluten-free trends.

Fortunately, lots of gluten-free products are now available, even if some Catholic jurisdictions forbid them.

NPR talks about one option option for gluten-avoiding Catholics:

That is where the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of Clyde, Mo., come in. After a decade of work, they came up with a Vatican-approved wafer, using wheat starch and water. It contains just .001 percent gluten, an amount low enough for most celiac sufferers…They sell about 15,000 breads per week…”We believe Communion is the actual body of Christ and that’s the center point of our liturgy as Catholics — being able to receive Jesus.

What about other religions?  My inside source at the Episcopal Grace Cathedral in San Francisco tells me that its services use

bread rather than wafers for communion, and almost always have a gluten-free alternative on hand (the bread is baked fresh for this purpose by the Bread Ministry!).

The purpose of doing this is “to make everyone feel welcome and included.”

Amen to that.

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Nov 17 2016

FoodNavigator-USA’s Special Edition: Food allergy and intolerance

FoodNavigator.com does occasional “special editions” in which they collect articles on particular topics from the perspective of their food-industry audience.  This one is on food allergies and intolerances, about which remarkably little is known.  If you are allergic or intolerant, the best you can do is hope for an accurate allergy test or do everything you can to avoid the food that triggers reactions.  Good luck with that since allergies are hard to diagnose and allergenic ingredients sneak into a great many foods and are not always revealed on labels.

FoodNavigator begins with Food allergy 101: Are you up to speed?

Food allergy is on the rise in many countries, but how many people are impacted in the US? We’ve collected some facts and figures from Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), the world’s largest private source of funding for food allergy research; the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); and NIAID, the lead institute at the National Institutes of Health conducting research on food allergy… Display [this site has basic statistics on prevalence and basic definitions of terms]

The lowdown on food allergy and intolerance: In conversation with Dr Steven TaylorMost researchers agree that the prevalence of food allergies is increasing in the US. Yet the amount of money spent on finding out why is surprisingly low, says one food allergy expert… Read

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Is low-FODMAP the new gluten-free? For the 45 million Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, identifying food that they can safely eat without triggering a flare up is a source of deep frustration that also could be a sizable market opportunity for innovative food and beverage companies that can provide an easy solution… Listen now

Allergen-friendly, free-from claims offer marketing potential beyond conventional food, beverageWith the number of Americans with food allergies and sensitivities increasing, free-from claims have become du jour in the conventional food and beverage space, but they remain relatively rare in the supplement segment and as such offer manufacturers a powerful tool to set their products apart. .. Read

Leadbetter’s realigns to focus on allergy-friendly manufacturing: ‘Our growth curve is very steep’San Francisco-based Leadbetter’s Bake Shop has stopped making English muffins, its flagship product, and changed its name to Better Bakeries as it focuses on building an allergy-friendly food manufacturing and co-packing business designed to bridge the gap between Mom & Pop scale operators and the big guns in gluten-free… Read

Elevation Brands CEO: Gluten-free bakery is saturated, but there’s a ton of white space in other allergy-friendly categoriesThe world will probably keep turning without another gluten-free cookie or cracker, but there is a ton of white space for allergy-friendly foods in other parts of the store, and untapped opportunities in c-stores, club stores, schools, and in Mexico, where the gluten-free retail market is set to “explode,” says the CEO of Elevation Brands, the parent company of Ian’s. .. Read

‘First’ entirely gluten-free dining hall opens on US college campusKent State University claims to have opened the first certified gluten-free dining hall on a college campus… Read

Gluten-free products are evolving to be more nutritious, flavorful, Firebird Artisan Mills saysThe gluten free market in the US remains hot, but as the category becomes more crowded, manufacturers must offer products with added appeal to stay competitive – such as a protein boost from pulses or an added dose of fiber and flavor with ancient grains, according to experts… Watch now

PepsiCo rolling out gluten-free Quaker oatmeal range across US retailNational distribution under way following limited launch in selected stores late last year… Read

Enjoy Life Foods: Dedicated allergy-friendly sets in the natural aisle are the best way to merchandise free-from foodsWith one in 13 children diagnosed with a food allergy in the US*, ‘allergy-friendly’ foods are now infiltrating every category in grocery. But right now, it still makes sense for most retailers to merchandise them in a dedicated set rather than spreading them around the store, unless you have very clear signage, says Enjoy Life Foods… Watch now

Early introduction of allergens reduces food allergies, suggests studyResearchers say they have “moderate certainty” that introducing allergenic food such as peanuts or egg at an early age reduces risk of developing allergies… Read

Digestive issues attributed to lactose intolerance may be caused by A1 beta-casein protein, suggests study funded by a2 MilkNew clinical research – funded by the a2 Milk Company – lends credence to its claims that many consumers who believe they can’t tolerate lactose (milk sugar) should really be blaming their digestive discomfort on the A1 beta casein protein in milk products instead. However, more human data is needed before this moves beyond the realm of theory into fact, says the National Dairy Council… Read

Quinn Snacks removes more than gluten from pretzels, shows consumers its supply lineHistorically consumers who wanted a gluten-free alternative to a wheat-based product had to sacrifice nutrition, taste or accept the presence of other common allergens in the ingredient list. .. Read

60-second interview, Beneo: Is rice still the first choice in gluten-free recipe formulation? Rice flours and starches dominated the first generated of gluten-free goods, particularly in the bakery segment, but are they still the #1 choice in formulators’ toolkits? FoodNavigator-USA caught up with Pierre Donck, regional product manager at rice ingredients specialist Beneo Inc, to find out… Read

Oct 12 2012

The latest in dietetic junk food

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) has just concluded its annual meeting and exhibition.

I was unable to attend but colleagues have been sending photos and giving me products or other objects collected at the exhibition.  This exhibition is always worth a look.  It typically features displays by food companies (Big Food and small) giving away samples of what I love to call “dietetic junk foods” in order to encourage dietitians to recommend them to clients.

Thanks to my NYU colleague, Lisa Sasson, for alerting me to these entertaining examples.

First: sugar-supplemented Stevia:

Next: The National Confectioners Association has a handy guide to moderate candy consumption:

Then: Frito-Lay (owned by PepsiCo) ‘s new Gluten-Free chips.

Potato chips did not ever contain gluten, but never mind.   They remind me of products offered during the low-carb craze a few years ago, like the ones I photographed when working on What to Eat in 2005.

Eat healthfully and enjoy the weekend!

May 30 2009

My latest San Francisco Chronicle column: Gluten Intolerance

My once-every-three-weeks column for the San Francisco Chronicle is set up as a Q and A.  I don’t get many questions through the column, but the few that do come in are often quite challenging.  This one is from a school chef wondering how to deal with kids who might be gluten intolerant – and whether gluten intolerance is becoming more common.  Interesting questions!  Here’s what I had to say about them.  If you have questions about food and nutrition that you’d like me to answer, send them to food@sfchronicle.com (put Marion Nestle in the subject line).