It's amazing to me how good some companies have handled the gluten thing and how badly others have botched it -- and blown it. After all, I won't buy anything that possibly contains gluten, especially with those mysterious ingredients like "flavorings."
So, I'm sure you'll appreciate this phone conversation I had tonight with a Sara Lee Corp. representative. Sara Lee makes Ball Park Franks.
See, I stopped at Sams Club looking for a pack of Best's Kosher hot dogs, which is what I always buy for the kids. It's definitely GFCF, and they're good. But they were out. Unbelievable! So, I looked to the other shelves and there were the Ball Park Franks. I checked for some indication of gluten, but found nothing, either way. I struggled to remember my GFCF lists as to whether they contained any. I suspected they were OK. But, I hated to buy it and find out later I'd have to return it. (I should not now that, indeed, most GFCFers consider Ball Park Franks safe -- I glanced at a couple online lists after getting home.)
So I called the toll free number on the package from the store. In a few minutes, the rep asked what I needed. I told her. She said she could help me. I read the UPC numbers to her. And, then (here's where it gets nuts)...
She said, "Well, if you could tell me what type of gluten you're trying to avoid, I can help you."
A little stunned, I said, "Uh, all types."
She responded, "But there are many different forms of gluten. It's in wheat, corn, rice ...."
I had to stop her. "Sorry, I don't know what you're reading to me, but it's incorrect. There is no gluten in corn or rice. The information you're providing is factually incorrect."
"Sir, we're just asking that our customers trust our labels and trust that we'd indicate clearly whether an ingredient contains gluten."
I said, "Well, then you can tell me whether there's any gluten in the ingredient named 'flavoring' in these hot dogs.'"
She stammered. I said, "I don't think you can tell me for certain whether these hot dogs have gluten or not. And since you can't, I'm not going to buy your hot dogs."
That's when she told me to hold for a few minutes while she consulted others. When she returned, she still could not tell me but promised to call back with an answer.
The point of this is not to pick on the poor lady on the phone. There's two important messages here.
First, companies like Sara Lee need to be more open about their ingredients. Other companies do it, and gladly do it. Until they do, they won't get my business.
Second, we need to be super careful about checking items for gluten. Just because you get some nice person on the phone assuring you that there's no gluten in your favorite hot dog doesn't mean that's good info. We need to ask questions, test the answers and push for clarity when the responses seem fuzzy. Otherwise, we -- and our kids -- will pay the price.
By the way, you can check out some good hot dog options at my previous Hot Dog Guide post.