Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Importance of a Dedicated Gluten Free Facility

As many of you know, Kinnikinnick Foods is a dedicated gluten free manufacturer. Since 1991, we've been Gluten Free and we always will be. Not only that, we do not out source the production of our products to anyone. We have complete control over the production of our products. I know how important this is to us, but I'm quite interested to know how important it is to you.

Why am I asking this? There's a couple of reasons actually. With all the publicity around gluten free recently, we are starting to see a lot more companies, both big and small, jump on the GF bandwagon. Some will have dedicated facilities, some will not and some will outsource production of their products to others. Some will get it right but some won't and that's a concern.

Mostly it's due to several experiences I've had over the last couple of years that really bring the issue into focus for me.

A Fog of Gluten
We are doing some testing of new equipment at a non-GF facility to see if that type of equipment can be used for our products. Our first day of trials was quite a reminder of why we are a dedicated facility. Flour dust hung like a fog in the air; it clung to our clothes and skin like glue (gluten!) , and I actually had a reaction later that day as I wasn't wearing a mask. Of course, the trial products went into the trash at the end of the day and we actually had to change clothes and wash our shoes before returning to Kinnikinnick as we were a contamination risk. I just don't know how anyone could make GF & non-GF products in the same building. Flour dust is -everywhere-

Think It's Clean Do You?
This also brought back memories of when we opened our K2 facility. We bought this Yes, it really is that big120,000 sq ft building and it's equipment when the largest producer of private label (wheat based) cookies in western Canada went out of business in 2005. When it was producing wheat based products, this facility was AIB (American Institute of Baking) certified with a consistently high score on it's regular audits. In other words, it was a very "clean" facility. However, before we made a single product in this new facility of ours, we spent over 6 months decontaminating the building and equipment. Every nook and cranny of the building was pressure washed, twice. Ceiling, girders, ducting, walls; all were washed. One week, the entire building had the electricity shut down so we could wash the lights, electrical conduit and instrument panels. Each piece of equipment was broken down to it's constituent parts and every nut, bolt and gear washed clean.

We were fortunate enough to be able to hire some of the employees of the previous company who knew the equipment. Being new to the gluten free world, it was very instructive for them to take apart the AIB certified, "clean" equipment and find wheat flour caked in places that were impossible to see and even harder to clean. Many of these places inside equipment would be in contact with anything produced in that equipment. Yikes. They quickly became gluten detectives, probing every bit of our equipment to ensure we could be certain this equipment was as clean as new.

We had the same experience in 2007 when we bought a used waffle production line. There were places in that machine that could only be cleaned of contamination by a complete tear down of the parts of the machine. I have some video which I'll dig up and post shortly of just how bad it really was.

UPDATE: Here's The Video

Personally, as a result of these experiences and because I am a celiac who actually eats some products from companies other than Kinnikinnick(!), I have a much greater sense of wariness when I see "manufactured in a facility that contains wheat." From a company perspective, I'd like every manufacturer of GF products to go to the lengths and expense we do. I know that some do already but some don't. As a consumer, it's tough to know just what you can expect. Hopefully, the new FDA regulations (if/when they are implemented) will bring some clarity to the issue. The issue in Canada is a bit clearer due to our regulations, but it can still be hard to know what to think.

We're not going to change the way we do things here at Kinnikinnick, because we believe it's the right thing to do and we think it's important to you. Let us know.

FYI... You can read more about our ongoing, daily procedures and testing for gluten on a previous post here


Bonnie said...

The importance of a dedicated gluten free facility is the difference between me eating a somewhat normal diet or going back to square one. I am a gluten intolerant person who develops leaky gut syndrome when I've been exposed to gluten. Even though in the past I was careful to use only gluten free processed foods (though not from dedicated facilities), my gluten tests kept coming back positive when I reintroduced gluten free processed food back into my diet. Those ppm's add up. Of course, once I'm positive with gluten, many other foods become off limits to me until I can again heal my gut because of the leaky gut problem. That is what I call back to square one with elimination, healing time, and then reintroduction. It is a very inconvenient slow process. Having learned the hard way, I now use only Dedicated Gluten Free Facilities for processed foods. Thank you, Kinnikinnick for your painstaking dedication. You allow me the freedom of using an occasional convenience to make my life easier.

carolyn, PA said...

I was diagnosed 29 years ago after 9 years of not knowing what the problem was. Originally there was almost nothing ready made to buy from any store. When something new came out it was like heaven or so I thought because even though the package stated gluten-free I couldn't tolerate it. My research for each of those gluten-free companies always led me to learn that they made gluen-free products on the same machines which they made wheat products. They assured me that they cleaned the machines between use but I knew it wasn't good enough for me. I still read the packaging of those same companies and I noticed that one inparticular now states that they make their products on the same mahines as wheat products. I can tell you that cleaning between use is simply not good enough. A company that is dedicated gluten-free is nothing short of wonderful. Thank you for your dedication.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate and trust your diligence and knowledge. Consuming gluten means nerve damage in my case, some irreversible, so having companies like yours is life extending.
Recently I thought I would try to buy bottled Barb-Q sauce and started reading the labels of bottles with GF on them. I found wheat and rye on the ingredient lists of numerous of these GF bottles. Needles to say I purchased none.
I am so glad there are companies like yours that are educated. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Having a company, like yours, that goes the lengths to produce in a dedicated gluten free facility gives me peace of mind! I can eat your products without that lingering thought in the back of my mind (hope I don't have a problem with this, I hope there is not cross-contamination). A GF dedicated facility is such a BIG deal to those of us who have a problem with gluten. THANK YOU!! And the bonus is that your products taste great!

Sharon said...

Congratulations on running a superb company that serves a segment of the population that otherwise would severly suffer healthwise. It is most important that your company remain completely gluten free. I have tried many products from other company's but always return to yours as they are the best. My sister was diagnosed with Celiac so long ago that I do not even remember the year. They hardly even knew what it was let alone have any foods available that were gluten free. I have been eating gluten free for almost 20 years and we have more people in our family that also do the same. We are eternally grateful and want to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. You are the best!!!!!!!!!!

Suze said...

Thank you for your diligence. This is why I love your products. I wish I were able to get them here in Hawaii. It's very difficult to get here.

Jean F said...

I'm gluten intolerant and my roommate has Dermatitis Herpetiformis-the mind boggling rash from heck he gets when he's "glutened" is enough to make us carefully avoid some brands which are produced in facilites which process wheat. Its like having a really itchy canary. If it makes him scratch, I'm not eating it!

JayB said...

Our flat rate $10 direct to home shipping program also applies to Hawaii if you can't find products in the stores. (or maybe I should just fly over and drop them off ;)

thestrictceliac said...

I was diagnosed with celiac just 5 days ago and going to the store was so disheartening. Many have 'gluten-free' lists to help you shop but nearly all the products are not gluten-free (processed in the same facility or on shared equipment with wheat). I've had people be really dismissive of my supposed 'pickiness.' I am incredibly thankful for companies like you who really understand what celiacs are up against.

It does scare me that gluten-free will be a trend like low carb and lots of people with celiac will be misled by labels. The average person seems to think gluten-free means no bread or wheat-free and it's just not the same. I had a colleague tell me she 'doesn't eat a lot of bread' and 'should really try my diet.' Oh, if she only knew. ;)


K said...

I just want to say thank you for having a dedicated facility. Every single time I eat something not in a dedicated facility, I get sick. It is not worth trying anything that is not considered secure to me. Tonight, for the first time in 5 years I had a hamburger with a Kinnikinnick hamburger bun and it was fantastic not being the only person to have to eat a burger without the bun.

Lynda said...

The timing of this blog post in your e-mail message today was superb! Only 2 minutes prior I had sent our a message to our members on this subject and then I got your article that backed it up from a company perspective!


Thanks for the 18 years of GF products that I have been eating safely! I was so happy to get your bread and see all your improvements over the years rather than the company in Seattle who was the only GF bread processor before that and I had to endure 8 years of it prior to your opening!

Andree said...

I have the HUGEST goose bumps ever after reading this. When my daughter was first diagnosed 2.5 years ago (at age 22 months, after 7 months of stunted growth)I became paranoid about gluten, but still didn't know enough to be this careful.
In the last year, I have become a "gluten free facility" nazi, but only recently have been getting lax figuring I might be might be overdoing it.

After this post and video, I'm convinced once more. I cannot fathom my dear innocent little girl ingesting anything that could POSSIBLY have come into contact with any form of gluten or wheat.

Our safest bet has been to cut out the over processed foods and eat simpler, but what can you do, my soon to be 5 year old loves pizza hot dogs and bread like every other 5 year old out there.

Thank goodness, all three are Kinnickinnick brands 99% of the time!

Thank you for sharing, I will share it myself on my own blog!

BTW, the new square pizzas and hotdog buns are DELISH! *I* want to eat them too!

Charmian said...

I bought some of the new boxed "gluten free" mix from a major food company that usually makes foods containing gluten. Was I sorely disappointed! Upon consumption I reacted immediately and know there is gluten in it. Thank GOD for Kinnikinnick. I can cook and always know what I am eating is safe for me.

Anonymous said...

Blech, that video is a 100% gold marketing asset. I don't see too many of your products in my neck of the USA but I'm going to have to ask for them. The local grocery chain has a pretty large "Gluten Free" section but only a few products from dedicated facility manufacturers. I'm too wary to trust most of them. I take great pains to keep my own kitchen clean, and I expect the same of all of my food sources. If only there were more companies out there with the same dedication as Kinnikinnick!

Don't count on the FDA to help you out. If they cared about safety then the "gluten free" label would only apply to products from dedicated facilities which also met a testing standard. They have a large and well funded constituency in food manufacturers, and will do what must be done to painlessly let them in on the "GF" action.

Sarcastic Celiac said...

This is way after the fact by almost a year... but I came across this post and wanted to let you know that YES, we do appreciate GF facilities! I've only recently come to realize that I'm still getting sick because of CC from products labeled gluten-free. Thank you immensely for caring enough to go the extra mile.

Anonymous said...

I know this is a way late post but I recently just had a bad experience with a product labeled "Gluten Free". My husband is a celiac and I found some gluten free chocolate chip cookie dough from Joe Corbi. The outside packaging said Gluten Free so I never gave it a second thought. My husband got sick and so we called the company. They proceeded to tell me that their gluten free cookie dough is certified by the GFCO and as long as their product has no more than 20 ppm in it, it is considered gluten free. Who made up these rules? The company also told me that their "gluten free" cookie dough is processed in a facility that is not dedicated but since their product is certified by the GFCO they are able to label their product "Gluten Free". I don't blame Joe Corbi. I blame the GFCO. I have written to them to rethink their certification process. This is just plain false advertising. I will never again buy a product that is not produced in a dedicated facility. By the way, I love your hamburger buns. I use them for everything, not just hamburgers!