I have been sitting on this post for about a month now (researching one thing has led to another and yet another), so some of the information in this post is a bit outdated (the ingredients and labeling of the Blue Horizon GF Fish & Chip Bites have been changed since I first bought them). What started out as a simple post to help other gluten-free advocates “clear up the confusion” over the labeling of this product, has turned out to be a GREAT gluten-free learning experience for me, and I have been trying to navigate this lifestyle for 5 years now. Which only further proves to me that no one person knows everything, and living gluten-free safely and happily is a collective effort, at least until the FDA officially defines the term “gluten-free.” Hopefully you will find some useful information in this post too. So grab a cup of coffee and sit down, this is definitely one of my longer posts, LOL! If you are in a rush or already know about the labeling confusion regarding the Blue Horizon Seafood Bites, be sure to check out the last part of this post on Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar.
Several months ago while on a shopping trip to Whole Foods, I bought some Blue Horizon Fish and Chip Bites that were clearly marked gluten-free on the front of the package. I will be honest and admit that I purchased them based on that gluten-free label alone (it happens sometimes), and I didn’t read the ingredient label on the back before buying them. When I got home, I promptly tucked them into my deep freezer and forgot about them (I do that all the time too). Anyway, back in March, I was in need of a quick meal for the boys one afternoon, so I pulled out the Fish and Chip Bites, placed them on a cookie sheet and into the oven the went. I am really thankful for having started to photograph the ingredient labels to share on my blog, because it was then that I first read the ingredient label (I don’t recommend doing that!).
I’ll admit this too, I automatically thought the same thing that many other gluten-free people thought… uh-oh! But before I acted impulsively and made a blog post about it, I Googled the Blue Horizon Fish and Chip Bites and came across many forums already discussing the topic, like this one on Celiac.com (I encourage you to read this message board thread, because it gives you a great idea of how frustrated and confused other celiacs can become over what we thought was a black/white issue suddenly becoming very gray).
The confusion and alarm makes sense due to the fact that we are often taught to avoid Malt Vinegar on the gluten-free diet, because it is usually made from barley (although it can also be made from corn, but neither barley or corn are one of the top 8 allergens that the FDA requires to be listed on an ingredient label), AND Malt Vinegar is not distilled (or so I thought, until I read this article (you really should read this link too, Jen Cafferty does a great job demystifying the malt vinegar confusion).
I am going to go even further into vinegars in a minute, but will tie up the Blue Horizon Fish and Chip Bites first. I contacted Blue Horizon and they were very gracious and explained the vinegar source and even included the lab test results showing that no gluten was detected in the products! That was really cool, if you ask me and I will buy their products again because of it.
Good Morning Heidi,
Thank you for contacting us with your question on the Blue Horizon Fish
& Chip Bites.
We use distilled malt vinegar which has no gluten in it. I have attached
the report form an independent laboratory showing this product is
gluten-free. Also we have changed this ingredient from the original
formula and are now using apple cider vinegar.
If you can respond with your address I can send you some $1off coupons
so you may try these gluten-free products.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.
Tiffany Janes, another great advocate for the celiac community, wrote an insightful article on the Blue Horizon Seafood Bites and you can read that here. I also encourage reading that article because Tiffany touched on some things that I think every gluten-free person needs to consider more often.
So on to the vinegar odyssey I have been on!
Did you know that there was a distilled malt vinegar? I sure didn’t! I actually got excited about it, thinking I needed to score some so I could have “real” fish and chips again (I have been using Red Wine Vinegar as my Malt Vinegar substitute since going gluten-free, it’s actually pretty good!).
So what is Distilled Malt Vinegar?
According to this website, distilled malt vinegar is:
This is a clear, white vinegar, also known as spirit vinegar, made by distilling ordinary malt vinegar to produce a very strong, colourless liquid high in acetic acid. It is less pungent than malt vinegar.
Uses: In home-made pickles, and especially where the colour of the food needs to be retained for example, pickled pears.
So, I had to see what my GF pals on Twitter thought and if anyone knew where I could find distilled malt vinegar. One response I received was from a pal in Ireland, where it is quite common, he even sent me a photo of an Irish Distilled Malt Vinegar (seriously, how cool is that?). To make a long story short, after quite a bit of chatter on the gluten-free status of the different types of vinegar from various parts of the world, and a bit of confusion after I wasn’t overly clear on another question I had asked (something as simple as another person thinking I had made a statement of fact because they did not see the ? after something I wrote). It was an innocent oversight but it took off like wildfire! Remember playing the “telephone” game as a child?
I realized just how easy it is to add more confusion (even if it is unintentional) to the swirling whirlpool of misinformation flowing in the gluten-free community. I highly recommend reading a GREAT article titled “The Gluten-Free Rumor Mill” by Tiffany Jakubowski (make note of when Tiffany talks about similar products by the same company but in different countries) Whether you are new to the GF lifestyle or have been doing it for many years, it is useful “continuing education.”
Anyway, I now realize that much of the confusion caused by my Twitter bomb could have been avoided if I had paid closer attention to some information on the Heinz website (see below… I told you this was a vinegar odyssey, right?). And this just speaks to the greater problem that I think many of us face on a daily basis: how many products have we become so comfortable with that we just drop them in our shopping cart week after week without realizing that we haven’t “checked” on them for a few years? How many products have similar sounding names but different formulations that we don’t even think to check the label for that extra word or two that signals the difference?
From the Heinz Website:
Are Heinz® Vinegars gluten-free?
Heinz® Distilled White Vinegar is sourced from corn, not from wheat, rye, barley, or oats. Wine Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar are sourced from grapes and apples, respectively, not grains. Therefore, they would all be appropriate for gluten-sensitive individuals. However, Heinz® Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar is NOT gluten free.
Ah, yes. I had completely forgotten about the Heinz Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar! I cannot recall ever seeing it at the store, and I buy my vinegar in bulk at Costco anyway, so I do not even use Heinz to stay acquainted with the products.
So, I probed deeper into the Heinz Website, looking for more information on the Apple Cider FLAVORED vinegar. I visited their products page and found nothing about the flavored vinegar. I did a Google Image search looking for a picture of the label… nothing. I eventually ended up on their foodservice site, Club Heinz (scroll down to the Products section, then a little further down to the subcategory “Bulk Vinegar,” and that is where I saw it, still no picture though)!
I started to relax thinking this was just a commercial foodservice product (that lasted a millisecond before I thought.. oh no, how many restaurants/manufacturers use this product, unknowingly? So, I sent an email to Heinz and the following is what transpired:
March 22, 2010
Thank you for contacting us to find out where you can purchase Heinz Apple Cider Flavored Vinegar. This vinegar is distilled white vinegar with an apple flavoring. The other kind is the Apple Cider Vinegar that is made from apples. Both are gluten free. The labels will be on the bottles and if you have any additional questions please feel free to contact us.
If the above stores (I omitted these to save on space) are not close to your area or the item is out of stock, we suggest that you speak with your store manager.
While we would like to be able to offer you the option to purchase this item directly from our company, we unfortunately are not set up for direct sales to consumers at this time.
Thank you again for your interest and continued patronage. We hope that you will soon have a convenient source for all the products that you enjoy.
Heinz Consumer Resource Center
When contacting us, please refer to the following reference number: 003159252A
PS – We love hearing from Heinz® Ketchup fans. So we’ve created a place on Facebook where Heinz® Ketchup lovers can share thoughts, ideas and stories. Stop over and fan us. You’ll find recipes, videos, info, and have a chance to chat with your fellow Heinz® Ketchup aficionados. Plus you’ll be among the very first to get the latest news from Heinz® Ketchup. Join us at: http://www.facebook.com/HeinzKetchup
Okay, did I read that first paragraph right? Did the Heinz representative say that BOTH the regular Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar and the Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar ARE gluten-free? Does the Heinz website not say the exact opposite?? Hmmm.. so, I had to send an email back to them for clarification (I have been known to read things wrong before!):
You are saying that the Heinz Apple FLAVORED Vinegar IS gluten-free?
Then why does your website list it as NOT gluten-free? http://www.heinzvinegar.com/faq.aspx (Last question on the page)
Just want to make sure I have it correct before making a post on my blog.
Thank you kindly,
March 23, 2010
Thank you for your interest in Heinz Products. We certainly understand how difficult it can be to find foods that meet the requirements of a restricted diet.
As you requested, the following is a listing of all of our products that do NOT have gluten containing ingredients. If the product you asked about is not on this list, then it may contain gluten containing ingredients. Also, please note that recipes can change without notice. Therefore, we recommend you always check the ingredient statement on the label.
Heinz BBQ Sauces (Original, Chicken & Rib, Garlic, Honey Garlic Only)
Heinz Chili Sauce (All Varieties)
Heinz Cocktail Sauce (All Varieties)
Heinz Horseradish Sauce
Heinz Organic Ketchup
Heinz Reduced Sugar Ketchup
Heinz No-Sodium Added Ketchup
Heinz Hot Ketchup
Heinz Mustard (All Varieties)
Heinz Pickles (All Varieties)
Heinz Peppers (All Varieties)
Heinz Relish (All Varieties)
Heinz Sloppy Joe Sauce
Heinz Tartar Sauce
Heinz Traditional Steak Sauce
Heinz Worcestershire Sauce
Heinz Vegetarian Beans
Heinz Distilled White Vinegar
Heinz Red Wine Vinegar
***Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar
***Heinz Apple Cider Flavored Vinegar
Heinz Red Wine Vinegar
Heinz Garlic Wine Vinegar
Jack Daniel’s BBQ Sauces (Original #7, Honey Smokehouse, Hickory Brown Sugar, Spicy BBQ Only)
Jack Daniel’s EZ Marinader — Teriyaki, Garlic & Herb, Steakhouse
Jack Daniel’s Steak Sauce (Both Varieties)
Lea & Perrins White Wine Marinade
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (All Varieties)
Lea & Perrins Traditional Steak Sauce
TGI Fridays Salsa (All Varieties)
Classico Red Sauces (All Varieties)
Classico Alfredo Sauces (All Varieties)
Classico Pesto Sauces (All Varieties)
Classico Bruschetta (All Varieties)
UPC CODE: PRODUCT NAME:
1769600019 Tamales, 12 ct. Delimex Chicken & Cheese
1769600024 Tamales, 6 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600028 Taquitos, 25 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600029 Taquitos, 25 ct. Delimex Chicken
1769600048 Taquitos, 36 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600095 Taquitos, 12 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600096 Taquitos, 12 ct. Delimex Chicken
1769600155 Tamales, 15 ct. Costco Beef
1769600159 Tamales, 20 ct. Delimex Beef, Costco
1769600180 Taquitos, 60 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600186 Taquitos, 60 ct. Sam’s Club Beef
1769600214 Taquitos, 25 ct. Delimex 3-Cheese
1769600565 Tamales, 20 ct. Beef, Sam’s Club
1769600684 Taquitos, 66 ct. Costco Beef
1769600685 Taquitos, 66 ct. Costco Chicken
1769600315 Taquitos, 50 ct. Delimex Beef
1769600316 Taquitos, 50 ct. Delimex Chicken
1769602630 Taquitos, 50 ct. Delimex Chicken Grande
1769602640 Taquitos, 50 ct. Delimex Beef Grande
1769600189 Taquitos, 60 ct. Delimex Chicken
UPC CODE: PRODUCT NAME:
13120XXXXX- ALL VARIETIES of Ore-Ida® Tater Tots®
1312001879 Ore-Ida® ABC Tater Tots®
1312000080 Ore-Ida Golden Patties® (9 ct.)
1312000258 Ore-Ida® Golden Fries® (32 oz.)
1312000278 Ore-Ida® Golden Fries® (5 lb.)
1312000286 Ore-Ida® Golden Crinkles® (32 oz.)
1312000291 Ore-Ida® Golden Crinkles® (5 lb.)
1312000296 Ore-Ida® Pixie Crinkles (26 oz.)
1312000377 Ore-Ida® Cottage Fries (32 oz.)
1312000392 Ore-Ida® Southern Style Hash Browns (32 oz.)
1312000428 Ore-Ida® Country Style Steak Fries (28 oz.)
1312000455 Ore-Ida® Zesty Twirls (28 oz.)
1312000469 Ore-Ida® Potatoes O’Brien (28 oz.)
1312000647 Ore-Ida® French Fries (8 lb.)
1312000654 Ore-Ida® Country Style Hashbrowns (6 lb.)
1312000784 Ore-Ida® Steam N’ Mash Cut Russets®
1312000785 Ore-Ida® Steam N’ Mash Cut Sweet Potatoes®
1312000787 Ore-Ida® Steam N’ Mash Garlic Seasoned Potatoes®
1312000483 Ore-Ida® Golden Twirls® (28 oz.)
1312000484 Ore-Ida® Zesties® (2 lb.)
1312000800 Ore-Ida® Steak Fries® (28 oz.)
1312000801 Ore-Ida® Shoestrings® (5 lb)
1312000828 Ore-Ida® Shoestrings® (28 oz.)
1312000833 Ore-Ida® Country Style Hashbrowns (30 oz.)
1312000862 Ore-Ida® Country Style Hashbrowns (6 lb.)
1312001036 Ore-Ida® Crispers® (20 oz.)
1312001176 Ore-Ida® Waffle Fries® (22 oz.)
1312001260 Ore-Ida® Extra Crispy Crinkle Cut (26 oz.)
1312001280 Ore-Ida® Extra Crispy Seasoned Crinkle Cut® (26 oz.)
1312001417 Ore-Ida® Extra Crispy Fast Food Fries (26 oz.)
1312001461 Ore-Ida® Country Fries (30 oz.)
1312001492 Ore-Ida® Fast Food Fries (4 lb.)
1312008564 Ore-Ida® Golden Crinkles® (8 lb.)
1312008565 Ore-Ida® Golden Fries (8 lb.)
1312008572 Ore-Ida® Golden Crinkles® (8 lb.) CLUB
1312001320 Ore-Ida® Sweet Potato Fries
1312001330 Ore-Ida® Sweet Potato Fries
SMART ONES PRODUCTS:
UPC CODE: PRODUCT NAME:
2580002011 Smart Ones Broccoli & Cheddar Potatoes
2580002247 Smart Ones Lemon Herb Chicken Piccata
2580002254 Smart Ones Fiesta Chicken
2580002360 Smart Ones Santa Fe Rice & Beans
2580002918 Smart Ones Chicken Santa Fe
2580002931 Smart Ones Cranberry Turkey Medallions
2580002290 Smart Ones Honey Dijon Chicken
Again, we appreciate you taking the time to contact us. If you need further information, feel free to call us at this toll-free number (1-800-255-5750). Our offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM until 6:00 PM, Eastern Time.
Heinz Consumer Resource Center
Huh! I love how they did not address the issue that there is conflicting information on their website! It was probably an “auto-reply!”
So, one day while shopping at my local Smith’s, I saw the elusive Heinz Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar (so yes, it is in some grocery stores) and bought it, as well as a bottle of the regular apple cider vinegar so I could take photos of the labels for you!
A closer look:
And closer still:
Is it just me, or do these two labels look very similar?? At least similar enough that you might not catch the distinction?
The two Ingredient Labels:
Talk about a paradox!
Now, knowing what I know about the distillation process (by Megan Tichy) and the gluten-free status of caramel coloring, (Nancy Lapid is another great source of information for the celiac community). I would personally lean towards the fact that the Apple Cider FLAVORED Vinegar is probably indeed “gluten-free,” but should I take the risk?
This little “adventure” has really got me thinking about the products I buy for me and my gluten-free family. Several months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mary Schluckebier, Executive Director of the Celiac Sprue Association. We were originally discussing McDonald’s french fries and whether or not they are in fact “gluten-free,” (I will leave that one alone ) and she said something that has really resonated with me over the past several months. In a nutshell, Mary planted the following seeds in my head:
- As celiacs, our heath is a matter of personal responsibility.
- It all comes down to personal RISK, as to the products we choose to buy and consume. Reducing risk when possible should always be our main priority.
- We all need to learn to “ask the next question.”
- The term “Gluten-Free” does not necessarily mean “free of gluten.”
Here are few things I have been pondering over the past several months as a result of those “seeds” (these are just my personal thoughts):
- If a product tests at 19 ppm of gluten (less than the 20 ppm proposed rule for defining products labeled gluten-free), it still has some gluten in it, right?
- So if one eats 10 products a day that have been tested to be under the 20 ppm limit, but still registers some level of gluten, does that have a cumulative effect?
- If a product is tested to contain, say 6 ppm of gluten, is that per serving or the entire package?
- If it’s per serving, and you eat the entire thing and it is technically 4 servings (how many folks actually eat a true serving size?), would that not be equal to eating something that contains 24 ppm of gluten? What is the daily maximum threshold of gluten consumption for someone with celiac disease?
I cannot seem to find any concrete answers to those questions (and yes, I do realize that I may be the only “wackadoodle” that thinks of these things!). But I have celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis and my son has celiac disease too. I want us to LIVE a healthy, happy and long life if possible, and in order to do that, I need to know what I am eating (have you seen Food, Inc. yet? )
On that note, I want to recommend a video on the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center website, that I really encourage folks to watch. I cry each time I hear the kiddos talk, I feel the pain of the parents and am inspired to do whatever I can to help spread awareness. While you’re there, if you can spare a buck or two, please consider donating to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.
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