Pret A Manger “Gluten Free” Wrap

21 Jul

Some of you may have seen recently that Pret A Manger have joined the gluten-free bandwagon by launching their own “gluten free” wrap.  However, the eagled eyed amongst you will notice the small print that states “While the ingredients of this product are gluten-free, it has been made in our kitchens which are not gluten-free environments”.  Pret stated on Twitter that they use cross contamination controls, so I asked them what they were.  Oddly they emailed me to ask if this was for “business purposes” which I soon set them straight on, but I’ve now finally managed to get a reply:

pret wrap“The gluten free wrap is made with no gluten ingredients (the wrap itself is gluten free), but we can’t call it gluten-free because of the risk of cross contamination. As it is made on site every day, and not in a segregated room in a factory, we can’t guarantee ‹20ppm. (this would mean putting the product on hold, send it out to a lab for testing and then release it once the results were available. We don’t carry sandwiches over, so wouldn’t be able to retain stock for analysis and wait for the results.

There are strict health and safety standards in place in our kitchens. Team Members need to thoroughly clean their benches and equipment before starting a new batch of sandwiches, and ensure that previous used ingredients are put back tin the fridge/cupboard. But this still doesn’t guarantee gluten-free. Also, sandwiches are made throughout the day for availability of fresh product. The same product is made several time throughout the day. Production is not limited to one batch, so again, we can’t guarantee no contamination.”

Interestingly the product name on the website is “Mexican Guacamole Wrap” and makes no mention of gluten free.  However it then states underneath “does not contain gluten”, with then further small print saying they cannot guarantee completely free from any allergen.  The product is described in store as a “New gluten-free tortilla wrap”.  Clear enough?  Personally my initial reaction is to avoid this one, as the cross contamination controls just sounds like basic hygiene rather than anything to avoid gluten cross contamination.

I posted this on Facebook the other day, and some were in agreement that they would avoid and a few said they would be happy to give it a go.  There was one particular comment from Carly Talbot of Gluten Free B that was very thought provoking:

Odd one- they surely aren’t technically correct as the likes of Dominoes etc can call their product ‘gluten free’ without testing every batch, based on the controls they use. Perhaps they should be looking for Coeliac UK accreditation for their process and training.

Also, are we guilty of holding Pret to a standard we wouldn’t hold other restaurants e.g. independents to if they also served GF bread?

Carly’s first point is of course correct, if Pret had engaged with Coeliac UK to gain official accreditation they could have indeed labelled their wraps gluten free.  To do this they would have to demonstrate that clear and documented cross contamination controls were in place along with staff training.  I had mentioned in my emails to Pret that I was surprised that a company of their size had not worked with Coeliac UK when rolling out a gluten free option, unfortunately they did not reply to this point.

Moving on to Carly’s second point and that’s a really interesting one.  Rightly or wrongly I do expect more of a large chain.  They have the resources to ensure they have responsible allergen processes in place, and if they don’t have confidence to put procedures in place on-site could have brought in a wrap prepared off-site.  One of the main differences to me between a chain and an independent is the point of contact.  If I email an independent restaurant I generally get emailed back by the manager, chef or owner detailing exactly what they do (or don’t!) do to prevent cross contamination.  If I’ve contacted the customer services team of a large chain I expect some sort of standard reply.  Pret initially didn’t seem to know what I was talking about, and took a week to come back with essentially “we wash hands, counter and put stuff back in the fridge”.  No mention of separate utensils and nothing to inspire confidence, and as a coeliac confidence is what I need to enjoy food when eating out.

It is of course welcome to see more and more companies offering a gluten free option, but this one just makes me a little uneasy.  Am I being too harsh?  I am genuinely keen for your feedback on this one, and I’d really love you to comment below with your opinions or if you’ve tried the wrap.  Coeliac UK have also said they are going to look into this one so I will be interested in their response too.  I’ll be sticking to the Costa gluten free wrap for now, which is certified gluten free.  I hope I’m wrong about the Pret offering but it just goes to show that it’s the confidence gained from the first point of contact that dictates if we eat somewhere as a coeliac.

Thanks also to Sarah from the Wuthering Bites blog for the photo.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

Gluten Free Plymouth News in Brief 20/07/14

20 Jul

2014-01-18 12.24.51Clare’s Gluten Free Cafe Closes

I’m very sad to bring you this announcement from Clare, though happy to report she will still be selling online, but her cafe is closing: “Hi, our shop will be closed until further notice. We are still taking orders via e-mail, telephone or website order form, for either collection (from our St. Budeaux address), or for local delivery (from £3.00). Any businesses who feel that providing homemade gluten free options in their outlet will benefit/increase their customer turnover, please feel free to e-mail/phone for more information. We will provide individually packaged gluten free items, so as to avoid any cross contamination risks. Apologies to all our customers and friends for any inconvenience.”

I will personally miss the cafe massively, and can only pass on my thanks to Clare for giving coeliacs somewhere so safe and comfortable to eat gluten free.  Be sure to check out her website for ordering options: http://www.claresglutenfreecatering.co.uk/

traditional_puddings_stallTraditional Puddings Range Change

Unfortunately Traditional Puddings experiment at making their entire range 100% gluten free has come to an end.  Sadly it seems the term still puts some people off and I think that’s still a battle we have to win.  Tina Hurford is now going back to baking both types of puddings, and note she had her gluten free puddings tested to <20ppm when doing this previously.  They are delicious and well worth trying.  Here’s the announcement: “IMPORTANT NOTICE: Due to circumstances beyond our control as from 16th July 2014, traditional Puddings will only be able to offer Gluten Free puddings on an order only basis. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. We will of course still attend Gluten Free fairs and venues with a the GF puddings“.

hollandsHolland’s Diner Opens

Those that attended the Coeliac UK Plymouth Group AGM in May might have spoken to Tracy and Chris Holland who were there to spread the word about their retro American Diner that was due to open in Frankfurt Gate, with a large gluten free menu.  I’m happy to report the diner is now open and in full swing and I’ve heard good reports.  I hope to be visiting and brining you a full review of this one soon.  In the mean time check out the gluten free information on their website: http://www.hollandsdinerplymouth.co.uk/#!gluten-free-/c1ud4

Mark&JulieWestcountry Produce

I am sure many of you will remember Julie and Mark Petvin who used to run Plymouth Greengrocer when it was based at Chaplins.  They are now back with a new venture called Westcountry Produce, mainly selling and delivery eggs around Plymouth and at local markets.  However, they’ve now started selling Soupy Do gluten free products and are adding many more gluten free items to their delivery options.  Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information.

2014-06-30 19.44.53Kingfisher Fish and Chips Extends Gluten Free Choice

Hopefully you’ve read my review of Kingfisher Fish and Chip Shop in Chaddlewood that I recently posted.  Gluten free is served all day every Monday.  I’ve been informed this week that they have added sausages to their gluten free range and these will be available both battered and without batter from this Monday.  I am also very happy to report that from the same day gluten free curry sauce will also be on the menu!

I hope you will all join me in supporting the great local gluten free businesses we have in and around Plymouth, it really is a case of use them or lose them.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

Changes to Discovery Mexican Gluten Free Range

17 Jul

I know there are many of us in the gluten free and coeliac community that are fans of the Discovery Mexican range with their handy gluten free labelling.  Recently I noticed that Sainsbury’s had stopped stocking the excellent Discovery Taco Trays, and when I tweeted them about this I was informed that they were no longer produced.  A quick investigation via Google revealed that all the Discovery products are being re-branded as Santa Maria UK.  Santa Maria do still make a taco shell and they have confirmed to me that this is gluten free.  I’ve put in a product request to Sainsbury’s so fingers crossed.  Thanks also to @Kazzy_P who tweeted me to say she had spotted the newly branded Taco Shells in Morrisons, and they are indeed labelled gluten free.

taco shells

Further bad news is that it seems some products that were labelled gluten free under the previous branding will no longer be labelled so.  Indeed the fajita seasoning mix that I normally buy has appeared with new Santa Maria branding in my local Sainsbury’s this week, and the gluten free claim is gone.  Santa Maria have sent me the following information with regards the changes:

Q: Why are the previously gluten free products no longer carrying the Coeliac Society logo?

A: Santa Maria follows the EU regulation. According to the EU regulation the limit for gluten free is < 20 ppm (mg/kg). Furthermore it is not allowed to mark products that normally don’t contain gluten as gluten free, like jalapeños, salsas and seasonings, due to the risk of misleading the consumers.

Further to this, there is also the following information that they’ve posted on their Facebook page:

Of the products which do not carry the coeliac society gluten-free icon the following applies:

1. Jalapenos – these do not & are not expected to contain gluten – all tested < 10ppm
2. Tortillas – these all contain gluten & Wheat is highlighted as an allergen in the ingredients declaration
3. Seasonings – these are manufactured in Sweden & so under tighter Swedish legislation which requires a zero gluten content guarantee, which Santa Maria feel unable to make but all tested < 10ppm
4. Corn tortilla chips – manufactured in Sweden – but all tested < 10ppm
5. Taco shells – these are manufactured in Belgium so carry icon
6. Salsas – all carry icon where < 10ppm

So it seems that some of the products are tested to be gluten free, yet are not being labelled so due to the fact “it is not allowed to mark products that normally don’t contain gluten as gluten free”.  In my opinion this certainly would not apply to seasonings and salsa, clearly there are many spice mixes and sauces around which contain gluten.  This was queried with Coeliac UK via Twitter and they gave the following response:

The Crossed Grain symbol can only be used on processed products with multiple ingredients. Naturally GF unprocessed products can’t be certified. Some of the Santa Maria products are naturally GF and unprocessed in nature (eg jalapeños) so we can’t certify these. Any products we can certify (eg salsa, spice mixes) have been certified.

So it seems Coeliac UK agree with my opinion, and @David_Navigator was quick to point out, the jalapeños contain pickling ingredients and so are actually processed in any case.  At this point Coeliac UK agreed to follow up with Santa Maria UK directly, so thanks to them for their help with this.

The Santa Maria customer service rep I’ve been speaking to has told me they have been inundated with queries about this, and suggested that the more people who get in contact then the more likely it is that the gluten free labelling will be restored.  If you’ve been affected by this change then please get the message over to Santa Maria either by Facebook or email at feedback@santamariaworld.co.uk.  A big thank you to Naomi at Santa Maria who has been extremely helpful so far, and even went off and found my Seabrook blog post and has used this to give feedback to a higher level on why gluten free labelling is so important to us.  I emphasised that if a product used to be labelled gluten free and is no longer then we lose trust even if there is no actual change to the product itself.  Naomi has confirmed that Coeliac UK have been in touch and is hopeful the GF labelling can be restored soon.

In the meantime Naomi has been kind enough to send me this list showing which products were labelled gluten free as Discovery Foods (DF), and which ones are labelled gluten free under Santa Maria (SM) branding.  So overall disappointing news, but so far great customer service and lets hope the gluten free labelling is soon restored to all applicable products and they can go back to being one of my GF hidden treasures.  I should also point out that there are a good number of products still certified gluten free, and well done to Santa Maria on that.  This appears to be confusion over labelling rules than anything more sinister.  Anyway, wish me luck in tracking down some taco shells, and hopefully we’ll soon be toasting a Seabrook style victory with tacos made with some certified gluten free taco spice and Abby’s refried beans.  I’ll be sure to update this post as and when I receive further responses.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

 

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