Friday, January 30, 2009

Gluten-Free Chili Again!

For some reason, this seems to be the season for chili recipes.

Here's an encore of my personal favorite!

For something new, here's a trailer for the martial arts movie Enter the Dragon.

Source (1:38)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fool for Starbucks

Motley Fool, That Is!

I have mixed feelings about Starbucks. I'm glad that the company shows an interest in satisfying people on gluten-free diets, but I'm annoyed that this interest has barely emerged from the test-marketing phase since 2007 at the very least, as evidenced by this post and this post and this post.

So I had something of an "Uh-oh, here we go again" feeling when Starbucks made its latest request for consumer input. But it's now gotten some attention in the form of the article "A Smart Strategy for Starbucks" by Tim Beyers at The Motley Fool (January 27, 2008), which concludes that "A gluten-free menu could be the shot of espresso this business needs."

And maybe this article will be also jolt Starbucks out of its test-marketing mode. Maybe I'm underestimating the situation, but I still think the Starbucks goal should be to offer the equivalent of at least one light gluten-free meal, preferably in consultation with a group such as GFRAP. The food doesn't have to be very different from what Starbucks already offers. For example, a fruit salad and veggie salads (with egg, cheese, and/or meat options for protein) should simply be prepared and wrapped under gluten-free conditions, and gluten-free desserts could include wrapped macaroons and/or brownies like the type already offered, no extra charges necessary in most if not all cases. Voila!—suddenly people with celiac disease could feel more secure about finding food while traveling in airports and elsewhere, thanks to Starbucks.

Photo: David Marc Fischer

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Moo Year!

Welcome to the Year of the Ox—known to some as the Year of the Cow!

And this year, for the first time, there are two GFRAP options for Chinese food in New York City: Lilli and Loo (now with Gluten-Free Lunch Specials!) and its sibling restaurant Lili's 57.

Here's how the New Year is celebrated at Hong Kong Disneyland—you know, the home of Mickey Mao!

Source (1:31)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Miss Persianality's Meatballs

Video includes tips on handling meat and cutting garlic

Here's a simple gluten-free cooking lesson from Miss Persianality.

I'm not sure that these count as inaugural balls....

Source (3:33)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

GFRAP Welcomes Midtown Restaurant Nizza

Upstate Bakery Also Added

The latest New York City restaurant to join the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program is Nizza.

Located at 630 Ninth Avenue near 45th Street, Nizza (rhymes with pizza) is convenient to Times Square and the Broadway and Off-Broadway shows in the Theatre District, and even relatively close the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. (Not very long ago, you had to be intrepid to wander through this part of Hell's Kitchen, but now it's a welcoming part of town that's crowded with restaurants and host to an annual food fair.)

Nizza, which delivers, opened around October 2007. Since then its Italian-French fare (including a chick pea pizza-pancake-crepe called socca) has been written up in The New York Times, New York, and Time Out New York. It's also been sized up by the good folks at Menupages and Zagat, where it rated a very respectable food rating of 20.

Nizza's GFRAP participation is not coordinated with an area group.

Another addition is Three Dogs Gluten-Free Bakery of Briarcliff Manor. The owner of Three Dogs is GFRAP leader Karen Miller, who is also involved with the Westchester Celiac Sprue Support Group (WCSSG). Karen brought a plate of delicious bakery samples when she recently visited Manhattan to speak about GFRAP and the WCSSG with the New York City Celiac Disease Meetup Group (NYCCDMG). I especially enjoyed her chocolate chip cookies.

The GFRAP participation of Three Dogs Gluten-Free Bakery is coordinated with WCSSG.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

March on Washington!

Whether or not you're spending the day at some little bash in DC, consider traveling to the nation's capital on March 8-9, 2009, to raise Congressional awareness of digestive diseases including celiac disease.

You can do so as part of the 19th Annual Public Policy Forum organized by the Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC), which includes the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) and American Celiac Society/Dietary Support Coalition (ACS) among its members.

It's in the new spirit of these times, you know.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bye-Bye Bush!

I've been thinking for a long time about how horrible the Bush administration has been—the worst in United States history to date, as far as I can tell—but to my surprise I realize I can say something good about it in terms of celiac disease and food allergies.

Yes, I have to recognize that it was under Bush's watch that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued its Consensus Statement on Celiac Disease (2004) and other publications devoted to increasing public awareness. Also during this period, the FDA improved food labeling and enforced rules preventing marketers from presenting spelt products as wheat-free or gluten-free.

None of that makes up for the damage done to the country and the world by the Bush-Cheney regime. Even where progress was made for people with celiac disease, health care suffered and under-regulated food marketers still got away with irresponsible labeling. But it's interesting to note that some progress was made, and encouraging to imagine that much more progress might be made under Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shameless Shirt Flirt Promotion

In less than a month, it'll be Valentine's Day. Come prepared for gluten-free lovin'...and consider gifts from the Gluten-Free NYC Boutique!

Like hugworthy love bears...

...and "on-message" undies!

GF logo by Debbie Glasserman Design

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Recognition for Allergic Girl Article

If the Chicago Tribune's investigative reporting on food labels was a high point of 2008, then a low point would have to be Meredith Broussard's hatchet jobs against the well-regarded Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), which Broussard recently attacked again with this Huffington Post item in which she still seems to be one of the only people in the world who would insist that the FAAN estimate of 150-200 deaths-by-allergy per year is a wild exaggeration.

Even if Broussard is right that the "real number" is actually 11, it's still a minor difference in terms of the entire US population—and a negligible quibble with FAAN considering how helpful the organization has been in educating families and the general public about allergies.

So it's great that Sloane "Allergic Girl" Miller took on Broussard in the article "Everyone's Gone Nuts" (January 11, 2008). This interview with pediatric allergist Mike Pistiner just won third place in the Samter Journalism Awards, developed by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) "to recognize the best reporting of the role of the allergist/immunologist and allergy, asthma and immunologic disease."

Yaaaai, Allergic Girl!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pasta Freezool!

The New York Times piece "New Options for Allergy-Free Pastas (January 12, 200)" by Martha Rose Shulman revolves around a recipe for gluten-free pasta e fagioli, a.k.a. pasta fazool. Shulman recommends several pastas (Andean Dream, Trader Joe's, Papadini, rice sticks) but omits some of my favorites, including Tinkyada (the standard in terms of quality and price), Le Veneziane (hard-to-find Italian import that's top-notch), Bionaturae (contains protein), and Notta Pasta.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Long Island's Third Gluten-Free Vendor Fair

Coming April 26, 2009!

Have you marked your calendar yet? After a hiatus, Long Island's Gluten-Free Vendor Fair will return on April 26, 2009 at IBEW Local 25, 370 Motor Parkway in Hauppauge.

The vendors so far:
Joan’s GF Great Bakes
Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies
The Diet Shop
Meadow Foods
Get Healthy America
Gluten Free Passport
Mari Productions
Food Tek
Schar USA
Enjoy Life Natural Brands
Everybody Eats
Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods
Pamela’s Products
Little Bay Baking Co.
Mr. Ritts Bakery
Two Fresh Chefs
Mama’s Restaurant
Shabtai Gourmet Bakery
The Silly Yak Bakery
Azure Chocolate
Allergy Friendly Foods
Outrageous Foods
The L. Lodico Walk for Celiac Disease
Organic Bistro Whole Life Meals
Full Flavor Foods
Caesar’s Pasta Products
Kitchen Table Bakers
Domata Living Flour
The event sponsor is Hauppauge's Personal Communications Devices; its host is Suffolk County Celiacs, which is now meeting in Riverhead as well as West Islip.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bad Labeling

Newman's Own Organics Takes Years to Respond to FDA

As I've been reporting ad nauseum, Wellshire Farms seems to have used inaccurate or misleading labels for years, hoping that it can get away with the practice, no matter the damage that might be done to children and other consumers.

Sometimes the FDA clamps down on bad labelers: In 2006, the agency actually confiscated French Meadow Bakery spelt bread that was marketed as wheat-free; French Meadow has since tried to make amends.

Food labels should be accurate and informative, but when it comes to bad labels, other possibilities exist between the two poles of getting busted or trying to get away with them. In December, Nature's Path undertook a "voluntary" recall of its Penguin Puffs cereal because the kamut was not identified as a form of wheat.

Companies may also get warnings from the FDA—but they might not respond promptly to the warnings. This can happen with companies that appear to very sensitive to consumer needs. I believe this was the case prior to the big French Meadow Bakery bust, but here's another examples: Apparently, the FDA issued a December 26, 2006 warning to Newman's Own Organics stating that the company failed to note the presence of wheat in its Spelt Pretzels, and then issued a December 22, 2008 warning letter noting that the problem had still not been addressed sufficiently. Newman's Own Organics now says that will change the packaging. But why does it take years for companies that market themselves as health-oriented to improve their poor labels, even after the FDA brings the problem to their attention?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General?

Judging from recent reports including these from The Washington Post and Reuters, it appears that CNN's Sanjay Gupta is Barack Obama's top pick for Surgeon General.

To the best of my knowledge, Gupta is not known for his coverage of the condition, but he is a colleague of anchor Heidi Collins, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).

This is another sign of hope that celiac disease might become part of the health and food agenda of the Obama administration.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Labeling Update from Chicago Tribune

"Garrett County" Also a Problem Brand

Sam Roe's recent Chicago Tribune reporting on food labeling was a high point of media coverage for the gluten-free community in 2008, ending with the article "Whole Foods pulls 'gluten-free' products from shelves after Tribune story" (December 31, 2008).

Roe and his colleagues did something that was long overdue: They examined food labels and tested foods for compliance when it came to gluten and allergens, then brought their findings to public attention.

In the December 31 article, Roe reports that Whole Foods has pulled three "gluten-free" Wellshire Farms products off its shelves due to their gluten content and stated that it "will devise a strict definition of 'gluten-free' for products sold in its stores and begin monitoring the items so such problems don't recur." Whole Foods was initially reluctant to pull the products but did so after receiving at least 20 consumer complaints or inquiries, the article states. Wellshire Farms apparently stopped producing the products in June but continued to sell them to Whole Foods without changing the labels, reports Roe.

Louis Colameco, owner of New Jersey's Wellshire Farms, still seems have misplaced priorities.
Colameco said he was disappointed Whole Foods decided to pull the products. "But they're the customer," he said. "What are you going to say?"

He said his firm has found a new batter supplier that can guarantee less than 20 ppm of gluten. The newly formulated products should be back on shelves in a couple of months, he said. And before distributing them, he said, Wellshire will conduct gluten tests throughout the production process.

Asked why he does not contact regulators and formally issue a recall for the three products, Colameco said the items do not violate any law and that a recall might suggest an admission of guilt, opening him to lawsuits.

The Wellshire Kids products aren't the only Wellshire items with gluten problems.

Colameco acknowledged that his firm markets products identical to the three Wellshire Kids items under a different brand name: Garrett County. This brand, he said, is not sold at Whole Foods but mostly at health-food stores nationwide.

The Gluten-Free Grocery, on Mannheim Road in Westchester, had carried the Garrett County "gluten-free" chicken and beef dogs. But owner Cindy Day Erwin said she pulled them in November after reading about the Tribune report on the Wellshire Kids brands.

"I would be doing a disservice to my customers to allow a product that has known gluten concerns" to be for sale, she said.

The Tribune recently purchased the Garrett County brand chicken bites, chicken dogs and beef dogs and had them tested at a University of Nebraska laboratory specializing in food allergens. The results showed gluten levels as high as 2,000 ppm.

Colameco said his firm stopped making the Garrett County brand products the same time it halted production of the Wellshire Kids items. He said he no longer had either brand in stock and did not know how much Garrett County product remained in stores.
GFNYC notes that Wellshire Farms had questionable labeling practices well before the influential Tribune articles.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year Wishes and Resolutions

Tricia Thompson's Wishes and Resolutions offer food for thought for 2009, which I hope will be filled with positive change for all of us!