Fair warning: This column is not gluten-free.
I say this knowing that some of you will drop the paper and hide under your desk, or at the very least move on to shipping point trends, which has been gluten-free for as long as I can remember.
Before I get ahead of myself here, a disclaimer: I am not in the dark about celiac disease and the debilitating effects that gluten has on the people who suffer from it.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, it’s not a food allergy (gluten is in cereal grains such as wheat and barley) and it affects one in 133 people in the U.S.
It’s not my intention to make light of celiac disease or poke fun at people who have it.
But I have to wonder: What do people who have celiac disease make of their ailment being turned into a marketing force not seen since the glory days of the Dr. Atkins anti-carbohydrate craze? Certainly, it’s easier to navigate the processed foods aisles or choose ingredients for a gluten-free holiday meal.
But beyond the obvious products made specifically for celiac disease sufferers — bread, pasta, crackers — I’ve seen many examples of “Gluten Free!!” labels in recent months on dozens of products that naturally are gluten-free to begin with.
That includes fruit juice, peanut butter and milk. I’ve yet to see a bag of fresh fruits or vegetables with that label, but it’s probably only a matter of time ... or I just haven’t seen them yet.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, all fresh fruits and vegetables (meat and dairy as well) are naturally gluten-free.
Marketing by fear works, I suppose. I have noticed more gluten-free products in the pantry and freezer, although my wife wasn’t able to pinpoint exactly why it’s beneficial to buy these particular products.
It’s all part of the dumbing down of Americans when it comes to food/nutrition.
Although there’s a near infinite amount of information (and yes, misinformation) available to us, we often act solely on what’s printed on a label in many cases.
I’m putting out a call to non-action to fresh produce marketers: Resist the urge to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon.
I know it’s compelling to join the marketing “flavor-of-the-month club,” but consumers are confused about health and nutrition as it is.
There’s no reason to give fruit and vegetable consumers the message your particular product is gluten-free.
While truthful, it’s a misdirection that could lead consumers to the conclusion that your competitor’s product does contain gluten.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.