Recently, there has been quite a bit of press regarding hidden gluten due to cross contamination in some products. A post on the Celiac ListServ requested responses from producers of gluten free products and this is ours.
Kinnikinnick recognized from the start that it was virtually impossible to manufacture gluten free products in a non-dedicated facility. Flour dust is incredibly difficult to control, even under the best GMP (good manufacturing practices). Of course, being a Canadian manufacturer, we've always operated in an environment where gluten free has been regulated by law. For at least 17 years, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has set the accepted minimum standard for a product to be labeled gluten free at 20ppm. The rule may have been in place for longer but that's how long we've been in business so it's a rule we've always been required to follow.
We answer some important questions:
Are you a dedicated gluten free facility?
Yes. Both our facilities are dedicated to the production of gluten free products. We even supply our staff with gluten free breads, buns, cookies and snacks as they are not allowed to bring in their own.
Do you outsource or co-pack?
No. All of the products we make are entirely controlled by us and produced in our two facilities. It's not much good to operate a gluten free facility and then subcontract out to facilities that aren't.
Do you test for gluten?
All of our ingredient suppliers are required to provide allergen statements which include gluten. However, this is only a start. In 2005, we opened our new in-house laboratory. Every lot of all of our major ingredients is tested for gluten using the RidaQuick Gliadin test which detects to 2.5 ppm Gliadin (corresponding to 5 ppm gluten). We also employ the RidaScreen FAST gliadin ELISA test for ingredients which do not test well with the RidaQuick test and as verification of the RidaQuick testing protocols. These are the same tests that the University of Nebraska and the CFIA uses (at least to the level of accuracy). We also do 3rd party verification of our test results with an outside lab.We test all of our minor ingredients on a schedule based on risk and an additional set of random spot checks. An additional important factor to consider is that many manufacturers rely on quick tests which have a threshold of detection of 50-100ppm for wheat only. The tests used in our lab also detect barley and rye proalamines (the harmful proteins) to levels down to 4ppm.
We at Kinnikinnick Foods are pleased to see that there is finally some public attention being drawn to hidden gluten and gluten cross contamination in products labeled gluten free. We do our very best to ensure our customers have the safest, tastiest products available. It is our hope that this issue will prompt some finalization of the FDA proposed regulation on gluten free labeling. While we know that there are companies out there who take the appropriate precautions, we look forward to a time when -all- "gluten free" manufacturers are required to meet the same standards so gluten free consumers know exactly what they are getting.
We are also in the process of a repackaging program which will more clearly identify other allergens to help our customers with additional allergies or intolerances make informed choices.