Wednesday, June 21, 2006


ADDENDUM MARCH 7, 2009 Please note that some of the information in this post is now out-of-date. Babycakes NYC still makes a number of items using spelt, but the bakery appears to have taken some measures to help ensure the safety of its gluten-free and wheat-free customers. Josefs Gluten Free is not open to the public. And the Gluten Free Bread Basket in upstate New York has closed.

Today's Manhattan User's Guide included the following:
From blogger David Fischer of Gluten-Free NYC (as well as Blog About Town):

Your item on Babycakes calls it "a gluten-free bakery" but that's misleading. At least one Babycakes cupcake contains spelt, which is forbidden to people on medical gluten-free diets.
In case you're interested, here's more context.

First, some background information:
People on medical gluten-free diets (due to celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformus) must not eat products made with wheat, barley, rye, and, possibly, oats. If they ingest a particular molecule associated with the gluten in those grains, they risk getting an autoimmune reaction that can be very damaging to their systems, especially over the long run.

People with classic wheat allergies run the risk of having a very severe and possibly fatal reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, if they eat wheat.

The current estimate is that about 1% of the population should be gluten-free or wheat-free, though most of the population is undiagnosed.

Spelt, which is related to wheat, is forbidden to people on medical wheat-free and gluten-free diets. However, some food marketers have made scientifically unsupported claims to the contrary.
There used to be a completely gluten-free bakery in Manhattan and another in Staten Island, but both closed. In Williamsburg, Josefs Gluten Free continues to operate as a kosher gluten-free bakery. Slightly upstate in Chester, New York, Gluten Free Bread Basket produces a line of gluten-free baked goods as a participant in the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP), which helps restaurants serve people on gluten-free diets.

There are other gluten-free bakeries around the globe, though they are rare. Many other friendly eateries (but not enough!) include wheat-free/gluten-free products among the foods they serve, while taking pains to ensure that their labels are accurate and that no cross-contamination occurs. Still other places, including some that have great intentions, are not that scrupulous about accuracy and ingredients. And spelt marketers have added to the confusion.

I've been excited that Babycakes has gotten excellent reviews for making cupcakes with "alternative" ingredients and I've wanted to support Babycakes in any attempt to make confections that are safe for people on wheat-free and gluten-free diets.

But, when I've read about Babycakes in the media, I've been worried about the confused reporting that spelt is wheat-free. That's why I was concerned in March, when I was told that Babycakes labeled its spelt cupcakes as wheat-free and I took note of New York's inaccurate reporting on the bakery. And that's why I sent a note to MUG about its own slip-up on June 16. On both occasions I first called Babycakes and checked its website to confirm my information.

In a post dated just yesterday, the Celiac Chicks blog posted an interview with Erin McKenna of Babycakes.
[Celiac Chick] Kelly: What types of flours do you use in your gluten-free goods?

Erin: Rice flour, potato starch, and garbanzo/fava bean combo.

Kelly: Are any customers fearful of cross-contamination with the spelt items? And have you considered going totally gluten-free?

Erin: Yes, some people have been concerned. However, we are hyper neurotic about preventing cross-contamination. As far as going totally gluten-free, we are working on plans for a wholesale facility with a storefront in the San Diego area within the next year.
However, the interview did not cover the question of how the spelt products are labeled. So today I phoned Babycakes and asked to speak with Erin. I didn't get through to her, but I asked two other employees whether the spelt products are labeled "wheat-free." From the first employee I got a disappointing "yes," but from the second employee I got an encouraging "no"--plus a thank you for my "good work" and advice to go after a major chain that, she said, persists in calling spelt products "wheat-free." She said that the company is "really putting people in danger." I'll be sure to look into that.

In the meantime, I do hope that everyone at Babycakes will indeed stop calling spelt products "wheat-free" and I continue to wish it well in serving the needs of people on medical diets. I also hope it will consider changing its website to be clearer about its ingredients. I don't see the harm in changing
Created with the delicate nature of toddlers young tummies in mind, Babycakes are free of wheat, gluten, dairy, casein, eggs, soy, nuts and refined sugar.
to include the word "many" in front of "Babycakes." (And, while they're at it, "toddler tummies" would eliminate a possessive problem, reduce redundancy and add assonance!)


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