Gluten and allergen free moms, REJOICE! The day has finally arrived that our kiddos can make the dreaded Fruit Loop necklace along side their classmates and no longer feel left out!
It was precisely the above situation that led me to Freedom Foods in the land down under a couple weeks ago. When Luke and I went in to meet his preschool teacher prior to the start of school, we went over all the usual suspects: daily snack time, gluten-free art supplies, gluten-free oats for the tactile stimulation table, his gluten-free treat box, etc.
All was going wonderfully well until Ms. S dropped the bomb.
The class would be making Fruit Loop necklaces the following Monday (as in 7 days later).
What’s up with Fruit Loop necklaces anyway? Oh sure, I remember making them too when I was a kid and it was certainly fun, at least for us kids. But what are teachers thinking when they decide it would be a good idea to jack their students up on artificial dyes and sugar? Seems awfully sadistic to me!
Anyhoo…I came home from the meeting with Luke’s teacher and started thinking of a good alternative since Fruit Loops are loaded with glutonium and other gnarly ingredients. I thought we could go to the craft store and pick out some colored beads. Or, we could make colored gluten-free dry pasta. I even went so far as to make some blue GF macaroni but the vision of my precocious 4 year old breaking a tooth when he bit down on an inedible substitute compelled me to query the almighty Google on “gluten-free fruit loop necklaces” to see what other moms in my situation have done. I didn’t find an answer, but I did see that I was not the only mom asking this all important question!
I redefined my search to “gluten-free fruit loops” and that’s when it happened <insert voices of heavenly choir basking in gluten-free glory here>, Freedom Foods’ Tropic O’s cereal popped up on the website of Absolutely Gluten Free as the top listing in my Google search. I was so beside myself with excitement that I didn’t even notice it was an Australian website. I emailed the kind folks at Absolutely Gluten Free to see if they would ship overseas but in order to get it here on time, I would need a second mortgage to pay for the shipping (my husband is very supportive when it comes to my “bright ideas” but this one may be grounds for divorce, LOL!).
To make a long story short(er), I ultimately discovered a company in California, Wholesome International, that recently began importing some of the Freedom Foods gluten-free cereals. So recent in fact, they were still working on the list of places where consumers can buy the products, including Amazon (you should definitely submit your email address to Amazon so you can be notified the next time Tropic O’s are in stock….I do believe my Facebook fans and Twitter followers wiped out the entire supply within a few hours of debuting last week, LOL!). A few phone calls later, and I found Sarah, a representative of Howell Mountain Distributors, who patiently listened as I explained my desperate situation and she agreed to sell me a case of the newly arrived Freedom Foods Tropic O’s with expedited shipping.
When the cereal finally arrived 2 days later, I was like a kid at Christmas (and I rarely buy gluten-free processed foods anymore). This however, was an occasion to celebrate. While I have been working very hard to change my family’s diet over to real, whole foods; nurturing my children’s emotional well-being is just as important to me as keeping them healthy. And like it or not, it is very important for children to feel “normal” around their peers, they’re pack animals at this age. I know all too well (and so do my parents) the potential consequences that can happen when an adolescent has an unmet need to feel like they belong.
Besides, compared to Kellogg’s Fruit Loops, the Freedom Foods Tropic O’s seem almost healthy by comparison (they do still contain sugar afterall). I’ll get to the good stuff in a minute, but if you would, please indulge me for a second (or two).
As you can see above, the ingredients in Freedom Foods Tropic O’s are: Flour Mix (Rice Flour, Wholegrain Sorghum Flour & Non-GMO Maize [corn] Flour), Cane Sugar, Psyllium, Natural Colours (Turmeric, Fermented Rice Powder, Gardenia Flower Extract, Sweet Potato Extract), Palm Oil (as emulsifier), Natural Minerals (Tricalcium Phosphate, Iron), Salt, Natural Fruit Flavors, Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folic acid).
Now lets compare those ingredients to Kellogg’s Fruit Loops: Sugar, whole grain corn flour, wheat flour, whole grain oat flour, oat fiber, soluble corn fiber, contains 2% or less of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut, soybean and/or cottonseed), salt, red 40, natural flavor, blue 2, turmeric color, yellow 6, annatto color, blue 1, BHT for freshness.
First thing to take note of is the sugar. Tropic O’s lists cane sugar as the second ingredient whereas Fruit Loops lists sugar in the number one spot. Translation: there is more sugar in Fruit Loops, in fact, there are 4 additional grams of sugar for each one cup serving compared to Tropic O’s. So what does that mean exactly? I did an eye opening experiment a year and a half ago on Kellogg’s Yogos (click here) and I encourage you to check it out.
Now let’s take a closer look at artificial food dyes, shall we?
Red 40, the most-widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune-system tumors in mice. The dye causes hypersensitivity (allergy-like) reactions in a small number of consumers and might trigger hyperactivity in children. Considering the safety questions and its non-essentiality, Red 40 should be excluded from foods unless and until new tests clearly demonstrate its safety.
Blue 2 cannot be considered safe given the statistically significant incidence of tumors, particularly brain gliomas, in male rats. It should not be used in foods.
Yellow 6 caused adrenal tumors in animals, though that is disputed by industry and the FDA. It may be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals and occasionally causes severe hypersensitivity reactions. Yellow 6 adds an unnecessary risk to the food supply.
Blue 1 was not found to be toxic in key rat and mouse studies, but an unpublished study suggested the possibility that Blue 1 caused kidney tumors in mice, and a preliminary in vitro study raised questions about possible effects on nerve cells. Blue 1 may not cause cancer, but confirmatory studies should be conducted. The dye can cause hypersensitivity reactions.
Almost all the toxicological studies on dyes were commissioned, conducted, and analyzed by the chemical industry and academic consultants. Ideally, dyes (and other regulated chemicals) would be tested by independent researchers. Furthermore, virtually all the studies tested individual dyes, whereas many foods and diets contain mixtures of dyes (and other ingredients) that might lead to additive or synergistic effects.
For more information, see Diet and Nutrition: The Artificial Food Dye Blues (Environ Health Perspect. 2010 October; 118(10): A428, PMCID: PMC2957945).
Next up, Trans Fats!
I borrowed the following Nutrition Facts Label for Fruit Loops from Marion Nestle:
Now, I’m only sharing this information because as Oprah often quoted Maya Angelou as saying, “When you know better, you do better.” And that has absolutely been the case for me. Before celiac disease and food allergies forced me into studying the ingredient labels of every product I buy, I only looked at the calories and fat grams of products. I didn’t know how to translate all the other information listed on the labels. And just to let you know how naive I used to be, I honestly thought that processed foods couldn’t possibly contain ingredients that were truly unsafe. I mean, the FDA would never approve the use of ingredients that could be potentially harmful, especially in products marketed to kids, right?
If you look at the nutrition facts of Kellogg’s Fruit Loops next to Trans Fats, you see “0 grams.”
That’s good, right?
The following is from the Harvard School of Public Health website:
Now that the once-ubiquitous but invisible trans fats are listed in bold print on food labels, it’s easier to spot them in packaged foods. Keep in mind, though, that according to the FDA, a product claiming to have zero trans fat can actually contain up to a half gram. (Canada set a different standard of zero as under 0.2 grams). So you may still want to scan the ingredient list for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” and “vegetable shortening,” and look for an alternative product without those words, especially if it’s something you eat regularly.
So, even though Kellogg’s states that there are zero trans fats in Fruit Loops, that isn’t exactly true. Kinda like how the label “gluten-free” does not mean the same thing as “free of gluten!” (click here to learn more).
I don’t mean to pick on Fruit Loops, because this is just one of thousands of products that contain similar ingredients (just check out my friend Melissa’s post on the newly labeled gluten-free Fruity Pebbles). Artificial food dyes are in everything, heck, they’re even in Vlasic Pickles and foods you would never think contained artificial colorings because they’re not neon colored, like Kraft’s regular white marshmallows which contain blue dye (think little blue haired old ladies. apparently bluing agents correct any yellowing that occurs in the color white) and General Mills‘ brown Cinnamon Chex cereal which contains yellow 6 lake and blue 2 lake (aren’t yellow and blue supposed to make green?).
Maybe a little artificial coloring is truly harmless, but if you’re eating it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, 7 days a week, 4 weeks a month and 12 months a year…well you get my point! I won’t enter into the debate on artificial food colorings and hyperactivity in kids, because there are other issues I think about. One has to wonder if all the synthetic colorings, preservatives, genetically modified ingredients, pesticides, etc., that are so prevalent in the American food supply, have played a part in the ever increasing prevalence of celiac disease, food allergies, autism, ADHD, autoimmune disease (and the list goes on and on).
Did you know that 70% of the US corn crop is genetically modified? As is 93% of the US soy crop (see Robyn O’Brien’s article, Didn’t Realize Our Food Contains GMO’s? You’re Not Alone and if you want to learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Robyn’s book, The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother’s Shocking Investigation into the Dangers of America’s Food Supply– and What Every Family Can Do to Protect Itself. EVERYONE should read this book, it is nothing short of astounding).
While GMOs are a highly controversial subject matter, the fact remains, there is NOT enough research to support the safety of genetically engineered foods. Not only is there the possibility of transferring allergenic proteins from one food to another, but scientists are creating brand new proteins that have NEVER before been in the human diet. How do you think our immune systems are going to respond to that, especially in those who have increased intestinal permeability (a.k.a. leaky gut)?
Even if my children could have gluten, knowing what I know now, I would still buy the Freedom Foods Tropic O’s over Kellogg’s Fruit Loops. The only way U.S. manufacturers are going to change is if informed consumers demand it and put their money where their mouth is (the gluten-free market is the perfect example of this). And as Robyn O’Brien pointed out in her above mentioned article Serving Up Food Dyes, UK Style, major companies like Coca Cola and Kraft are already doing this in other countries where the public is much more aware. I just started finding out the truth about “what’s really in our food,” maybe 2 years ago when my family’s health began spiraling out of control. And the more I think about it, the angrier I get, so lets move on to a happier subject, the taste of Freedom Foods Tropic O’s cereal!
I couldn’t taste the cereal personally because I’m allergic to corn but my husband said they taste just like what he remembers Fruit Loops tasting like. My kids absolutely loved them (so much so, I had to hide 4 of the boxes because I still view this as a treat, not an everyday breakfast staple).
According to the Freedom Foods website (under Managing Allergens):
Our ‘Free From’ Home
In 2009, Freedom Foods established a dedicated ‘free from’ factory in Stanbridge in the New South Wales Riverina (near Leeton.). Our factory is one of the few factories around the world that is free from wheat, barley, triticale, sesame seeds and nuts.
Not only do we produce our Freedom Foods Cereals and Biscuits at Stanbridge, but we also actually mill many of the raw ingredients that we use at the factory.
We test every batch of products produced at Stanbridge to ensure that gluten, peanut, almonds and hazelnuts are not detected.
We use ELISA tests for gluten
Our Stanbridge site is completely free from wheat, rye, barley & triticale and we ensure that the oats that we bring on site are not contaminated with wheat.
Testing of gluten:
Every batch of our product is tested to ensure that no gluten is detected.
click here to continue reading.
And yes, the Topic O’s make a great “Fruit Loop” necklace, but the “O” shape is smaller than that of Fruit Loops (I would say they are more the size of Cheerios), so you may need to do a little sorting to find cereal pieces with a large enough hole to thread on a piece of yarn. A small price to pay, in my opinion…and it’s a good exercise in focus for the pint size crowd, LOL!
Know what else these will be great for? Decorating Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly Gingerbread Houses (which reminds me, I better get to planning my 2012 unmasterpiece, LOL!).
Would you like to try Freedom Food’s Tropic O’s for yourself? Well, here’s your chance!
**This Giveaway is Now Closed**
Each winner will receive (1) package of the following cereals (for a total of 5 boxes of cereal):
To enter for a chance to win this giveaway, simply leave a comment!
*This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
Bonus Entry Opportunities (these are strictly optional, but should you decide to do any of them, be sure to leave a separate comment for each task you complete because this is how I keep track of entries, no sense in doing the work if you won’t get credit!)
- ‘Like’ Freedom Foods on Facebook
- Share the link to this giveaway on your Facebook Page (be sure to tag @Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom in your status update so I know you did this).
- ‘Follow’ Freedom Foods on Twitter
- ‘Follow’ Wholesome International on Twitter
- Tweet about this giveaway (be sure to include a link to this page and include @adventuresgfmom in your tweet so I know you did this).
- Share the link to this giveaway in a blog post.
I will announce the 3 winners on Monday, September 12th, 2011. Good Luck!
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