One Thing I Hate About Celiac Awareness Month

As I strive to do all year, I usually try to spend Celiac Awareness Month empowering newly diagnosed celiacs and celebrating just how awesome eating gluten free can be for those who need a GF diet. However, in the five years since my celiac disease diagnosis, I have noticed one big problem with Celiac Awareness Month that I think it’s time to openly address, and it has to do with the way many “gluten free” but not celiac safe brands hijack this month for their own promotional needs.

One Thing I Hate About Celiac Awareness Month

I suppose you could say that this post started with some gluten free pizza. Or, to be more accurate, “gluten free” pizza. A company contacted me on Instagram and offered to send me some of their gluten free pizza crusts in honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month. As a pizza lover, I immediately started drooling at the thought, but after spending some time on the company’s website, I couldn’t find anything about their cross contamination protocol. I messaged the company back, saying I'd love to try their gluten free pizza crusts but only if they were cross contamination free as, like everyone with celiac disease, I can get sick from a single crumb. 

Their response? Something to the tune of:

“We are working on creating a gluten free certified product, but can’t guarantee no cross contamination at this point, and would not want to risk your health.”

One Thing I Hate About Celiac Awareness Month

Now, before I start talking about why this predicament bothered me and the larger issue it represents, I want to say this: this post is not written with the goal of shaming or hating on this pizza company (hence why I’ve left it unnamed). Neither their packaging nor their website claims that their crusts are safe for celiacs or free of cross contamination, and I don’t think they reached out to me with the intention of causing harm.

However, this is just one example of a much larger issue: the fact that many “gluten free” products promoted during Celiac Disease Awareness Month are actually not safe for people with celiac disease. Considering that the company obviously knew I had celiac disease and that cross contamination was possible with their products, this Instagram message also reveals how little many brands actually know about celiac disease, even as they “raise awareness” by sharing their products. 

This isn’t an isolated incident either. Even before Celiac Awareness Month officially started, I've seen bloggers promoting brands like Omission Beer, which several experts have explicitly said is not safe for people with celiac disease, as well as other non-celiac-safe foods. 

One Thing I Hate About Celiac Awareness Month

Now, do I think that product promotion has no place in Celiac Awareness Month or that being a good celiac advocate requires you to never work with brands? Of course not! As readers know, I commonly partner up with companies I believe in and share my favorite products regularly on this blog and my social media channels. Heck, I published a sponsored post featuring tons of delicious gluten free (and, most importantly, celiac safe) products just last week.

However, I do believe that bloggers need to do their homework. 

I believe that, especially during Celiac Awareness Month, bloggers should work with brands who care about the celiac community...and whose products are actually safe for members of that community. And if companies whose "gluten free" products aren't actually celiac safe do want to help spread the word about Celiac Awareness Month, they should follow two important caveats: first, they should clearly indicate for whom their "gluten free" products are safe and whether cross contamination (which causes huge problems for people with celiac disease like me) is possible. Second? They should educate themselves on what "celiac disease" actually entails, and reflect that knowledge in their campaign participation.


One Thing I Hate About Celiac Awareness Month
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Would Celiac Awareness Month automatically improve if all product reviews, promotions and giveaways were cut out? I doubt it. Personally, I think product reviews and giveaways are big reasons why Celiac Awareness Month is so fun. After all, May is about more than just educating people about what celiac disease is. It's also about coming together as a gluten free community to share the tips, encouragement and, yes, favorite gluten free products, that help us live happier, healthier and tastier gluten free lives.

This goal of helping people adjust to a gluten free diet or thrive with celiac disease can't be fully accomplished, though, as long as misinformation and improperly marketed "gluten free" products make up a solid portion of Celiac Awareness Month coverage.

The Solution

As much as I might wish to say otherwise, I don't have a solid solution for this problem...but I do have some ideas, and they require you to join in.

One Thing I Hate About Celiac Awareness Month

Educate people - including bloggers! - about what people with celiac disease can really eat. Support companies who take the necessary precautions to produce safe, allergy-friendly food.

Like this post? Tweet me some love by clicking here: "PSA: if your "#glutenfree" product can have #crosscontamination, don't promote it as #celiac safe during #CeliacAwarenessMonth. Read all my thoughts on this important issue here --> http://bit.ly/2INfHJf"

And, perhaps even more importantly, remember that as bloggers, gluten free eaters, celiacs or their loved ones, it's our responsibility to not only make wise choices about the brands and products we promote but also educate companies (and people) who incorrectly assume that "gluten free" means "celiac safe."



What do you think about product reviews and giveaways during Celiac Awareness Month - or year round? Tell me in the comments!

Comments

  1. I love this! This is so true, and it annoys me so much. It confused me for at least three months until I learned that the only question isn't "is it gluten free" but "is it safe for Celiacs." There is no double standard, no matter how much easier it would be for food manufacturers. There is only one standard that matters, if it's Celiac safe or not. Everything else is snake oil.

    People may choose to get a Celiac safe meal in a restaurant and wash it down with beer, that's not my business, but then the problem is the restaurant starts to disdain something I need and gets sloppy. Restaurant staff are humans too. They have feelings, they get sarcastic, even in their own minds, silently. As soon as that takes root, I'm in danger now.

    I'm still in my first year, I made the following mistakes recently: mushrooms, smoke flavor, yeast extract. If I can make those mistakes after being strict GF for 6 months, anyone can. Plus this illness messes with your mind, so our memorization may not be perfect. Mine used to be much better than it is now. We rely a lot on manufacturers and restaurant staff, so building a solid trust on a basis of clear communication is needed.

    Thanks for pointing this problem out!

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