So, that package has a little “certified gluten free” seal on it. Or does it? Maybe it says, “gluten free?” And what about nuts? And the necessity for food labels to list out any of the Top 8 food allergens that are used in a food manufacturing facility? It’s a lot to navigate to feel like you can be safe, especially if your allergies are severe.
We’re asked frequently about how we manage to keep our products allergen free. Let’s go through the process at our commercial bakery, to help you understand and feel safe.
First, all Gem City Fine Foods products are made in a dedicated gluten- and nut-free commercial bakery. What does “dedicated” mean? It means we do not use ingredients containing gluten or nuts in our bakery. This is not the same as certified. A manufacturing facility itself cannot be certified gluten-free. The products can be, though, and every single one of ours is. We go through a rigorous audit annually to make sure our policies and procedures are in place and are being implemented. This includes weekly testing of our products and on ingredients when they come into the bakery if they are deemed “high risk” by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO.) And we validate testing procedures quarterly by testing a “spiked” product (one containing gluten.) We document and share test results with GFCO.
So, the lesson in this? If you see the “certified gluten free” logo on a food product, that means the product has been through tests and audits. If you see “gluten free” your risk may be higher of being glutened, especially if a food is processed in a facility that also uses gluten ingredients. And this brings us to other food allergens.
You will note, if you look on one of our food labels, that we specify our desserts are produced in a facility that uses eggs, dairy and soy. Let’s look at soy first. The soy you will find in our bakery is in the form of soy lecithin, which is found in the chocolate used in our Flourless Chocolate Torte and our Mocha Cheesecake. For those of you who are cooks, you may know that lecithin is often used as an emulsifier. For those of you who are allergic to soy, you may know whether you are allergic specifically to soy lecithin. People who are allergic to soy are not necessarily allergic to soy lecithin, which contains very little of the amount of soy protein that stimulates allergies. This does not mean that everyone is immune. Your doctor or allergist can help you determine if you are allergic to soy lecithin.
OK, soy down. Let’s move on to eggs and dairy. Cow’s milk and eggs are two of the most common food allergens. And we have not removed either dairy products (though they are hormone-free) or eggs (cage-free) from our products, aside from Vegan Chocolate Cake and Cupcakes. So then, how do we make sure those of you with either or both of these allergies is safe when you consume our Vegan desserts? We both clean and sanitize between production runs, so that those allergens are removed from the production area before we make our Vegan products. And to be sure our cleaning and sanitizing procedures are being implemented properly and are effective, we test for general allergen proteins weekly on surfaces that have been sanitized recently.
No procedure is failure proof, but we do our best to minimize opportunities for cross contamination, beyond the production area, including with a separate break room, hand washing, and removal of outer clothing that is worn in our production, packaging and storage areas so it is not exposed to allergens outside those areas.
If you are in the Salt Lake City area and are interested in seeing how we do what we do to help keep you safe while enjoying a delicious treat, we will be holding a Bakery Walking Tour from 6:30-8:30 pm on Tuesday, April 30, and would love to have you join us. The tour is limited to the first 15 people to register, and you can sign up here:
We’d love to have you join us!