Written by Guest Contributor, Chris Rich, Vice President of Development for the Gluten Intolerance Group.
Quick question – as a gluten-free consumer, what is the first thing that you do when you pick up a new product at the grocery or drugstore?
The majority of you probably answered one of two things. First, you find the area showing the ingredients and/or components that make up the product. You are looking for those “hidden” ingredients: the malt, wheat flour extract, etc. When people think about you being gluten-free, they think you need to just avoid breads, but these ingredients are the tricky little things that you know can do the real damage.
The second thing that you are doing when holding that product in your hand is looking for the GF label. The “circle GF” label, also known as the certification label, is arguably the most trusted symbol in our gluten-free community.
Before I became involved with the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and learned more about our Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) program (which handles the certification of products), I was doing the same label searching. My son is a Celiac and when shopping for him, if I found the “circle GF” label on the package, I knew I didn’t have to look at the ingredients. That symbol to me, and to thousands of others in the community, represents “safety”.
But what exactly does it mean to be Certified Gluten-Free? What makes the GFCO Gluten-Free certification label different from others and distinguishes it from a product that just says gluten-free?
For one, when a company goes through our certification process for their products, they are being held to higher standards than those implemented by the FDA. Products that just say “gluten-free” are only required to have 20 ppm (parts per million) or less of gluten per sample size tested. Products carrying our certification label have been tested to 10 ppm or less.
In addition to these higher result standards, our GFCO testing process is one of the most extensive in the industry. GIG representatives will visit the production facilities and take test samples from all steps of the manufacturing process; from the starting ingredients to the methods that product is packaged and stored.
Knowing the importance and symbolism that our approval label holds, we continue to test product even after the company has completed the certification process. Random testing of products off of store shelves and unannounced visits to manufacturing facilities are some of extra steps that GFCO takes to make sure that this label maintains its integrity in the industry. Should we find products that are not adhering to the standards that we expect, we will take the steps to have the process corrected, use our media outreach to assure that the community is aware of the risk, and if necessary, have the certification symbol removed from their products.
At GIG, approximately two-thirds of our employees are affected by either Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, either directly or through a close family member. We are part of the gluten-free community, and we understand the challenges people living gluten-free face every day. Companies such as Afterglow, who put forward the effort to complete the certification process for the benefit of you, the consumer, are the champions of this industry. Their gluten-free cosmetics are part of our network of almost 30,000 certified products, manufactured in 29 countries on six different continents.
Many things make me smile. As a parent, it’s getting to watch my kids grow and be successful. As a representative of GIG, it’s finding that label during an everyday shopping trip on a product that I had no idea was gluten-free. It shows me that this company cares for us, the GF community. They care for that person who is so dependent on the “circle GF” label that they have turned it into a sewing pattern. They care for that person who walks by at an Expo and proudly shows off their “certified GF” arm tattoo. They care for people such as my son. Afterglow has recognized that not only does the certified label on their products represent “safety”, it is a symbol of hope and empowerment to a growing population. It is a symbol on Afterglow’s line of products that shows they care.