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Website Move

All, it’s been a couple weeks since we’ve posted, and the reason is that we’ve been working on building a beautiful new, more interactive, website, which we’d hoped to launch last Friday. That didn’t happen. We still have a couple bugs to work out, but would like to let you all know we plan to go live this coming Friday afternoon, July 19! So, if you have trouble accessing the website, please let us know- but we hope to be up and running smoothly with no bugs!

Remember, you can call us at 801.746.4454 to report any problems. Randy or Rachel will get you to the correct person to take care of you. Thanks!

The Times are a-Changing!

This has been a busy week for Gem City Fine Foods, with lots of developments, including beginning work on our new updated and what will be as beautiful as our desserts website, a great podcast adventure with Andy Imhof at Pardon My Fork, a look at our jazzy new product labels, and the chance to check out how well our brand new dessert (you will be blown away by the amazing flavors Whitney has put together into this individual treat) holds up in frozen shipping.

Where to begin? First, one savvy judge in the Specialty Food Association sofi award competition this year enjoyed the complex, fun and fruity flavors of our Lemon Zest and Pomegranate Cheesecakes, but suggested we update our packaging. We took that to heart, and while no one on the management team is interested in changing our logo and floral background, we asked our fantastic team at Paragon Press to work on spiffing up our labels, which they have done admirably. Not only will product name appear much bolder and clearer, but we’ve updated “Made in a nut-free facility” to “Made in a gluten- and nut-free facility.” This was a no brainer; it’s not enough these days to simply plop a gluten free certification seal on a package. If a product is made in a dedicated gluten-free facility, then that eliminates one avenue for human error that could really make someone sick.

And how about our website? We’ve wanted to update this for a while, to make it cleaner, crisper, and easier to use, while at the same time highlighting the beautiful artisanal look and quality of our desserts. The new site will retain that floral element, but soon you’ll see an updated look that we hope will make navigating our website a real visual pleasure. We are pleased to be working with Alicia of bran marketing to make this happen. (And we are especially happy to be able to say that both Alicia and our team at Paragon are local!)

We will leave our brandnew product for a future blog post, closer to launch time. But speaking of new product, for those of you who haven’t heard, as soon as the labels arrive, you’ll see our decadent new Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake for sale online. This rich and creamy sweet and chocolatey treat will be available in a 3-inch size that’s perfect for one person, or to share with another. Hello, date night in front of the TV with dessert!

Finally, our CEO and Sales and Marketing Manager Lisa had a blast talking with Andy Imhoff this week, doing a show for Pardon My Fork The intention, when Andy got in touch following the Northwest Food Show this spring, was to talk pure dessert decadence. The conversation, though, turned many corners, and much of our time was spent discussing the ins and outs of food allergies, including celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, dairy and soy allergies, along with veganism, how gluten free and food allergies are embraced differently around the country (and in other countries), and many other topics- even a nod to dinosaur fossil bones. This podcast episode will be available for a listen any time today 1pm PT onward at the link above. Check it out. Pardon My Fork is a laidback conversational podcast with all sorts of foodie people, from chefs to food writers to World Food Champions and more.

As always, and especially with so much going on, changes on the way, we encourage you to be in touch with questions, comments, and suggestions. Remember to check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up for our monthly newsletter to learn about specials, events and to hear our latest news. And as always, we are respectfully dedicated to making delicious specialty certified gluten free, nut free and food allergy friendly desserts for you and your friends and family.


Food Security and Fraud

Notes from the CEO’s brain:

Today I finally dug in and conducted our annual Food Security Self Assessment for Gem City Fine Foods. This is part of our SQF (Safe Quality Food) certification, and our commitment to maintaining high food safety standards. The topic of food security and fraud is fascinating, so while I pretend to roll my eyes at the paperwork, I do enjoy keeping up on the news (think plastic pellets in rice, much like e. coli in melons.)

We maintain a Food Security, Defense and Fraud plan that is part of our overall food safety programming, and every year we conduct a Threat and Vulnerability Assessment as well as administering the checklist to make sure we’re still doing what we should be to prevent tampering from within or without of the food that ultimately reaches the consumer’s plate.

According to the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), food fraud is economically motivated adulterating of a food product, and the related hazards. An example from the top 6 most likely foods to be subject to fraud, is the thinning of olive oil with water. Innocuous enough, and the seller’s economic motivation clear: same profit on less olive oil. Fish is reportedly the most often faked food, with species mislabeled- ie. sell a cheap filet at a pricey filet price. Food fraud can be dangerous though, as in the 2002 case in which a snack bar owner in China put rat poison in a rival business’s food.

Bio-terrorism also falls under food security, defense and fraud programming. Bio-terrorism is the use of biologic agents or toxins on civilians to coerce political or social objectives, as in the 1984 case of a religious sect in Oregon contaminating salad bars in restaurants with salmonella to disrupt local elections. See? Fascinating stuff- but scary.

We don’t worry too much about either inside or outside tampering with the ingredients or final products handled at our bakery, but we remain vigilant. At this time we are a small enough facility and employee team that we know each other and most of the people who come through the door for deliveries, pick ups, and other business. But we train every employee in our program, and refresh annually. While cameras monitor the grounds, employees keep their eyes open for suspicious behavior as well. We inspect and log incoming shipments and test them and our finished products periodically, as part of the traceability chain. A bag of dry ingredients that is broken when it comes off the truck is not allowed into the facility, for instance. And annually we conduct an assessment online, answering many questions with levels of certainty attached, to gauge our vulnerability to fraud, based on motivation, economics, and other inside and outside factors.

Some people might think it’s overkill, but it takes just one instance… and depending on where in the food supply chain, can have devastating consequences.

Speaking of food security, we hear much these days about food security- or insecurity- related to the availability of food to people around the country. Political, economic and social circumstances certainly drive why some in the United States go hungry. Since I have the floor here, I’d like to draw attention to the news article below that crossed my desk today, and to thank the Governor of my home state for pushing for a plan to end food  insecurity there by 2030. It’s a giant task, but a goal we all should be working toward, in our cities and towns, states, and in the country as a whole.

Respectfully committed to your safe enjoyment of ourdesserts,


Trending: Notes from a Centennial Celebration

Plant-based protein.
Plant-based dairy.
Vegan options.
Avocado toast, despite being very “yesterday,” won a FABI (Food and Beverage Innovation) Award this year.

The National Restaurant Association celebrated its Centennial anniversary this week in Chicago, with more than 65,000 food industry professionals in attendance.

FABI award winners included Beyond the Butcher’s plant-based, gluten free (not certified GF), non-GMO Uncut Breakfast Sausage Patty; Beyond Meat’s plant-based ground beef alternative; Fora’s Faba Butter dairy-free, plant-based butter; and plant-based Impossible Burger from Impossible Foods, highlighting a recent love for meatless meat and dairy-less dairy. Of course, there were meats among the winners, too, including a turducken and a handheld breakfast sausage and gravy stuffed hashbrown. But vegan and non-GMO featured among the winning desserts as well. Congratulations to Longmont, CO-based Wild Flour Bakery for their Bravadough! gluten free (not certified) vegan cookie dough (we had a chance to visit and taste-test the baked cookies), and GS Gelato for their gluten- dairy- and GMO-free Plant-based Cold Brew Coffee Frozen Dessert.

The trend toward clean and sustainable continues in the food service world, including non-GMO and Made in the USA. We proudly displayed our Made in the USA placard and received many thanks and commendations for our certified gluten free, nut free and food allergy-friendly desserts being made here in the US. (BTW, all our ingredients are sourced here in the US as well through vetted suppliers.)

We were blessed with opportunities to sample our desserts straight to potential buyers who will then be able to provide them to you. We also found time to walk the show floors and attend sessions, meeting other company representatives like us, looking for potential partnership opportunities to improve our business, and to share the wealth with you. As we continue to grow our show presence, we learn more and more every year. There is no doubt that our focus on providing top quality desserts that are gluten free, nut free, vegan and allergy friendly is right on track with the trends of the industry. We are pleased to continue to grow and serve the food allergic community. Remember to check out our Events and Specials page to see what’s coming up, and feel free to be in touch any time to let us know your thoughts and needs.

Nourished Festival Report

What a busy week we had last week, and what a rewarding weekend!

It was the first time the Nourished Festival (formerly GF&AF Expo) visited Salt Lake City, and though turnout was not as great as expected, this allowed us the chance to have in-depth real conversations with our celiac and gluten- and nut-free friends in the community. Thanks to everyone who turned out for the event! We will continue to travel around to Nourished Festivals in other parts of the country to check in with you all. We have become “regulars” in San Diego, Denver, Schaumberg (IL) and Dallas, so continue to look for our booth in the red nut-free zone at those events. Thanks to Jen and the crew for continuing to provide these opportunities to come together to procvide for the celiac, gluten sensitive and otherwise food allergic or special diet members of the community.

We also had a chance to catch up with other friends at the show. Thanks to Elisa of My Gluten Free World Expo, Lynn of Travel Gluten Free Podcast and Erica of Celiac and the Beast for stopping in to chat. We made some new friends: Shout out to Share Your Teal, who loved our vegan chocolate cupcakes, and who have a great line up of goods to help those with food allergies stay safe, and to the guys at Imaware, who were pricking fingers all day for celiac and rheumatoid arthritis testing at a great discount. Check them out if you wonder. They will be developing other tests, and you can get a home kit that returns your results just days after you send in your sample!

Remember to check out our Events and Specials page to see what’s coming up next, and if you are planning to attend the Nourished Festival in Denver or Schaumberg, see you there soon!

Lisa gets tested for celiac at the Nourished Festival, above.

Hunger Stories

A couple days ago I received an email from an Executive Chef at a retirement community, in which he admitted that he has “a very enthusiastic gluten free and health conscious population here that still likes dessert!” As we work out pricing for new fans, navigating the realm of frozen shipping and distribution, I am reminded of food security issues around the world- and here at home in the US. While everyone deserves good, nutritious food, and even an occasional treat like a GF Flourless Chocolate Petit Four, not everyone has access. Every day we pull out our hair to find the best way to get our celiac and gluten free friends and fans our desserts, but that is just one food-related problem. What about those right here in our country who don’t have enough to eat on a daily basis?

Last year in San Francisco in January, we took a break from the Fancy Food Show to hit a local establishment for a little food and drink and to watch some football on TV. Outside the window, we saw someone hand out pizza crust scraps to people in the park who accepted them gratefully. Pizza scraps. Really. Someone’s crust, after eating the rest of the pie from inside it. Whatever feeling that image brings a person, there is no doubt that there is something quite wrong here. (Related, the Specialty Food Association, which hosts the Fancy Food Show, also regularly promotes endeavors to relieve hunger in this nation, including this year members donating nearly 35,000 pounds of food after the Winter Fancy Food Show.)

As we engage with our professional organizations, it’s important to keep a bigger picture in mind. Many years ago, when I worked in the field of education for homeless and at-risk youth, one year when I attended the annual NAEHCY (National Association for Education of Homeless Children and Youth), as my colleagues and I sat at a nice catered lunch at the conference hotel in a major US city, suddenly someone entered the dining room and began to walk around speaking loudly about how could we be sitting in that room enjoying that sumptuous lunch while the very people we purported to serve were going hungry? Of course we all learned from each other, and brought new ideas and initiatives back to our own home programs, where we served children and youth locally- my own employeer was a non-profit full service agency that included a homeless shelter with meals, free clothing, medical and mental health care, educational and job services- but point taken, guy.

And beyond our professional lives, the importance of the bigger picture remains. Recently I returned to northern New England for a sorority reunion. There were over 150 women assembled, and before our big reunion dinner we attended a meeting in which two people associated with our alma mater spoke. One encouraged us all to take part in an initiative on campus to provide meal plans for students who cannot afford them. That’s right. College students who can’t afford to eat. The age old jokes about starving artists and starving college students persist, but in these days the college experience, including at public institutions, is becoming more prohibitively expensive. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, college tuition at public four-year schools has increased by 213% in the past 30 years since I graduated with my bachelors degree. (Private universities have increased tuition on average 129% in that time.) ( Whaaaa..? No wonder kids can’t afford to eat.

Just last evening as I left the evening bird ID program at my local Audubon society meeting, packing up the box of napkins and coffee cups I bring back to the office for the next month’s meeting (Gem City Fine Foods donates desserts to the meetings, so I hand off then collect the box with the month’s offering each time the chapter holds an evening program), a young man, college freshman, noted that the Carrot Cake tasted pretty good and there was some left over. I asked if he would like to take it with him, and his immediate answer was that he’d be pleased to have the extra cake because he had no food in his dorm room. Even those students who have a meal plan deserve a little extra sometimes, and not always is that little treat affordable. Imagine those who can’t even afford a meal plan. How can they learn and achieve without proper nutrition? If they’re worrying about how they will eat?

No doubt, you all have stories you could tell. If so, I’d love to hear them. Please contact me at the email address on our Contact Us page, or visit with me at the Sandy Nourished Festival weekend after next. For those of you who don’t know, hunger and homelessness are issues close to my heart. I worked with at-risk children and youth for many years before changing careers and eventually becoming CEO/ Sales and Marketing Manager at Gem City Fine Foods. While I am absolutely committed to being able to provide delicious treats to those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and other food allergies, I recognize a wider need to feed people right here at home.

Hunger is real. According to USDA-ERS, in 2017, nearly 12% (15 million) of American households were food insecure, meaning that “at times during the year, these households were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.” (

We all have our causes. This is one of mine, and I am fortunate to have a platform for talking about it. I hope that bringing up the reminder will encourage others to help build a bridge across the gap from those who have plenty to eat to those who may have little- to none.


Nearly One in Three

As we approach Celiac Awareness Month, it’s disheartening to read in the news that in a recent report in American Journal of Gastroenterology researchers found 32% of restaurant dishes labeled as gluten free contained gluten. Not surprisingly, pizza, pasta and dinnertime dishes were the most frequent offenders, with pizza and pasta testing positive more than half the time.

The numbers are substantial enough to have merit:
“The company supplied what they had: 5,624 food tests performed by 804 users during an 18-month period. When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that 32 percent of tests revealed gluten contamination in dishes that were supposed to be gluten-free.

“Gluten-free pasta samples were positive for the protein in 50.8 percent of tests, while gluten-free pizza turned out to contain gluten in 53.2 percent of tests. Gluten was detected in 27.2 percent of breakfasts, 29 percent of lunches and 34 percent of dinners.” (

There are many opportunities for cross contamination in kitchens where gluten-containing foods are also found. Many establishments are making honest efforts to serve the celiac and gluten sensitive customer. Others may make lip service. It’s good to know your local restaurant and what their commitment is. Traveling or trying a new establishment can be more challenging.

We’ve met chefs who have- honestly!- laughed in our faces when we’ve told them our products are certified gluten free, calling gluten free “a trend” or “a fad.” We’ve also met chefs and restaurateurs who ask earnestly how they can serve the gluten free consumer who walks through their door or appears at a wedding they are catering. Somewhere the information is just not getting out. Until a person experiences the problems associated with ingesting gluten -or any food allergen- some people just don’t get it.

The same question arises for me when considering this conundrum as arises when considering addiction or mental illness. Why is a broken leg understandable, or cardiac disease, but not these other medical conditions? Why is pollen allergy understandable while a gluten or peanut allergy is not?

There are organizations working on providing answers and resources. But what about people who just don’t want to hear? Who don’t want to know? For now, those of us who understand must access those resources en mass, get together in groups, be activists for self. For health. For life. If you are food celiac, gluten sensitive or food allergic, do not hesitate to help others understand what it is like for you. If you are uncomfortable facing peopel alone, find a friend, a group of people to be with to help. Together we will continue to get the word out that celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and food allergies are not just “a preference,” “a trend” or “a fad,” but real conditions that can be life threatening.

Ask questions, find answers. Don’t hesitate to walk out the door of an establishment that doesn’t make you feel comfortable you are safe. Be an advocate for yourself, and you will at the same time be an advocate for others who share your experience.

On your side, respectfully,

Safety First

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!

Nuts to Airlines

Internet stories, especially shockers, can circulate on social media indefinitely. How often have you see a story come around on a friend’s post, and found out later that the event actually happened several months or even years ago? (We’re not talking rumours that turn out to be untrue here, but stories that happened and continue to come around, like the celebrity who dies multiple times in various social media universes.)

This morning, a blog post appeared, detailing the story someone who had sent two unaccompanied teens home aboard a major carrier and then an airline partner flight across the ocean. So says the story, that apparently the kids were bumped from the flight after one disclosed a severe allergy to peanuts and the partner airline decided not to accommodate him. A little bit of research on our faithful internet reveals many stories such as this, from news articles to opinions expressed about such incidents.

As we have branched out to serve a more broad food allergic consumer group, we have been learning about food allergies and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). Succinctly stated by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) on their website (, “Under the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, eating and breathing, and affect your heart and circulatory system, eating and your digestive system, breathing and your respiratory system, and more. All of these life activities are at risk for a person with a life-threatening food allergy.”

So, if you have severe food allergies, you’re covered under ADA, right? Not necessarily. Commercial airplanes are exempt from ADA, and covered under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). But what does this mean?

Generally speaking, Department of Transportation does not consider food allergies to be disabilities, though if a food allergy is sufficient to limit a major life activity (such as breathing!), then the allergic person meets the definition of person with disability (ABC News, June 6, 2017, The problems seem to really begin with a lack of clarity or continuity in how airline policies and employees, even within airlines, handle severe food allergies. The ACAA does state that airlines may not refuse transportation on the basis of a disability. The Act also states that airlines can exclude a person if having that person on board could compromise the safety of the flight- note this is not the same as the safety of the person with allergies.

Perspectives differ on this issue. The internet sphere abounds with comments from people who claim those with severe allergies should be kicked off flights rather than the other passengers give up their peanuts, while the other end of the spectrum is vocal as well, asking if people can’t just give up one little snack in order to allow someone to travel on a plane?

As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) “food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern” (February 14, 2018, The issue of how to best accommodate all air travelers is not set to fly off into the wild blue yonder any time soon.

Think Spring.

Sitting in a hotel room in Athens, GA, looking out on an unseasonably cold day, it’s a challenge to believe the “think spring!” message of the latest issue of Simply Gluten Free Magazine, gearing up for our first National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) regional conference. But spring will come, just like every season does annually, weather or not. And spring brings renewal, including a direction we’ve discussed moving toward for a while at Gem City Fine Foods.

One article in this March/April issue of Simply Gluten Free discusses the rise of chronic illnesses among children, among them asthma and mental health conditions, which can impede daily life. The subject is not a new one to those who have suffered from celiac disease or related conditions. “Have suffered” is the operative term here. Modern medicine has made it easier to diagnose celiac disease and gluten sensitivy, which means though more people are being diagnosed, more people, some who have suffered for decades, can be treated so their symptoms ease and their lives improve- usually dramatically.

Which leads us to our directional shift. For many years we have done our best to provide a superior gluten free ready-made desserts to those who follow a gluten free diet through grocery stores and more recently online (now via both Amazon and through our own online store.) You can now buy a truly decadent and safe dessert anywhere in the continental US, and that includes those diners with peanut and tree nut allergies. But are we touching the lives of everyone we could?

Recognizing an increase in food allergies among younger people, and the concerns parents and care givers have in sending them off to school, where they may find themselves in a less controlled environment, we want to have your back. We’re excited about the direction so many colleges and universities are taking in making dining areas and experiences accessible and safe to students and staff with food allergies.

We’ve had the pleasure of talking with several food service representatives from various schools in the US and Canada over the past few months, and are really looking forward to our foray into the NACUFS world, not only to showcase our certified gluten free, nut free, and even Top 8 free desserts for food service, but to learn more about how nutrition is shaping up on campuses today. The more we learn, the more we can help you and yours eat well and safely.

Our mission remains to build Gem City Fine Foods as the premier provider of delicious gluten free desserts. This spring we advance our mission as we advance our new direction, looking forward to meeting with those who can help, and to serving you.

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