I have been remiss in my duty to follow every emerging, whack-o diet craze. Somehow, gluten-free mushroomed when I wasn’t looking.
Oh, I admit, I heard it mentioned a few times and I even spared a moment or two of pity for those poor souls whose bodies can’t tolerate one of one the world’s commonest food ingredients, the gluten in wheat, rye, barley and other grains.
But it has been only in the last couple of weeks that I realized how many “gluten-free” labels are popping up and in what amazing places.
Today I spotted “gluten-free” on evaporated milk, ground bison, organic apples and yogurt.
In the processed aisle, you can find “gluten-free” foods laden with sugar and fat and virtually absent protein, B-vitamins or niacin that wheat and other grains supply.
Really, people? I don’t begrudge anyone the chance to cash in on a hot marketing trend, but isn’t the average food consumer confused enough about where their food comes from? Do we have to lead them to believe wheat is a milk ingredient?
Cows may chow down happily on the grains that have been a healthy staple of the human and animal diet for more than 10,000 years but the milk that gets pumped out of their udders has not a trace of gluten. Bison, on the hoof or in the hamburger aisle, have never been known to sprout heads of grain. Apples, my friends, are a fruit, not a grain. And yogurt is a dairy product.
So why on earth would these foods get a “gluten-free” label? Is it the equivalent of a “safe” umbrella for those folks seeking a gluten-free diet and who may not know what foods to avoid? Of just a stunt to encourage purchase by people who are information-challenged?
It concerns me to see this kind of labeling for the same reason it concerns me to see “organic” and “all natural” everywhere you turn. It implies that the stuff in the next aisle is somehow inferior or unnatural.
But “gluten-free” goes a step beyond and implies that grain-based foods are something to avoid. That is not a message that promotes healthy eating, especially when “gluten-free” is high fat, high sugar and low nutrition.
Cereal growers – wheat, barley, rye, oat – join forces now. It’s time to nip this trend.