Monday, June 13, 2011

"Natural Flavors"

     Have you ever wondered what "natural flavors" or "spices" actually means when it is listed in the ingredients of a packaged item? Well, you should. Many ingredients can be disguised as a  "natural ingredient."
     By law, only the top 8 allergens have to be listed on the package as a warning, out of those 8 only one is a grain (wheat), yet there are at least 10 other grains that contain gluten. Some items are clearly labeled but if you don't know what the original form of that ingredient was, you may not realize that it contains gluten. A great example is malt. Malt will be clearly detailed in the ingredients, but did you know that malt is made from barley?  Barley contains gluten.  The gluten is not destroyed in the making of the malt, therefore malt contains gluten.

     Always contact the manufacturer if the package does not clearly state that it is GF/CF. I recently contacted Sara Lee, the makers of Jimmy Dean Natural Sausage. I simply went on their website and found a contact email address that I used. I sent my email on a Friday and had this answer by Monday afternoon...

     Here at Sara Lee, we have a 'truth in labeling policy'. Anytime there is a gluten-containing ingredient in one of our products, the ingredient will be listed on the ingredient label. As we do not print a gluten-free list, we recommend checking the label every time for any ingredients your physician has told you to stay away from. We never hide gluten-containing ingredients in general listings such as flavorings or spices.  Casein would also be listed by name if present in a product, not hidden in a generic listing, like flavorings or spices.

     My son loves this brand of sausage so I was relieved to hear that they don't hide G/C, it would be clearly stated on the package. They make a good point though, that you should read the label every time you buy their product. Companies are constantly making changes.

     Another thing to note. If you contact the company and ask "what are the ingredients included under the heading of natural flavors?" or similar question asking for the actual contents, they will not give it to you. It is considered "proprietary" information. In other words, its a secret and they aren't telling! But, they will tell you yes or no if it contains a specific ingredient.

     It may seem like a hassle to have to check the labels and contact the companies but it is an important step in making sure you (or your kids) don't accidentally ingest an unwanted allergen.

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