One of my blog readers wrote in a month or so ago about a bakery in Massapequa (and another location in Hicksville) Francesca's on Merrick Road in Massapequa letting me know of her story. I asked her if I could post what happened as a warning to others.
I went to Francesca's because someone had recommended it to me as advertising in the newspaper that they offer "Gluten Free"- so when I went, asked the girls behind the counter about which were gluten free and they "kind of" pointed to some cookies, even with the add for "Gluten Free" that was big and in the window! The cookies that the girls were saying contained no gluten were at the bottom of open racks with tons of gluten products above them, so even if I DID trust that they didn't contain gluten, I felt the cross-contamination was too great. I asked if they baked in a dedicated facility (which they do not), and what steps they take to eliminate cross-contamination, which they did not know. I asked if there was anyone else I could speak to about their "gluten-free" products, they said they were the only ones there and didn't know. Needless to say I did not buy a thing, and have not gone back.
When my reader wrote me the following I was shocked and felt we had to warn others:
My husband ordered me a sheet cake and cheese cake a few months ago (gluten free). They were great. I went back and tried to order another cheese cake for Easter and spoke to the owner on the phone while in the bakery. He said that he could not make one with such short notice and said that the ones already made "only had "a little "gluten!!!) I questioned him as to whether or not the one I ordered was really gluten free. He could not tell me what the crust was made from! Needless to say, I left without anything. I decided not to get the gluten free cookies (which are also delicious) either. I was afraid that they too may have "a little" gluten!!) I did not trust whether the pantry was cross contaminated. I did try to explain to the owner that by saying that it had a little gluten is like telling someone with a peanut allergy there is only one peanut in it! He asked me if I had gotten sick and if not, it was not big deal!! My concern is that they will continue to sell these products and people will continue to buy them under false pretense.
Unfortunately people who are not educated in gluten-free do not fully understand the seriousness of it and the precaustions that must be taken to prepare fully gluten-free foods! Even KELLOGS, a huge corportation wrote back in an e-mail regarding their items that contain gluten with a list of items that contain only "a little gluten"... C'mon! this is Kellogs! Ugh. So if big companies don't get it, how can we expect the small ones to care?! We have to do our best in the Celiac Community to keep getting out there and educating as many people as we can as to false advertising!
As a rule, I tend to ask a lot of questions before ordering anything "new" that is claiming to be "Gluten Free", so luckily I didn't buy at Franchescas, but I'm sure a lot of people did because they trust in the signage and labeling of Gluten Free...