Chips ‘n’ Dilemmas

18 Aug

Every time I’m standing in the grocery store checkout line, I scan my items waiting on the conveyor belt for any “giveaways.”

Today, the three Betty Crocker dessert mix boxes (more on those later), proclaiming “Gluten free” in large, bold print, gave away my disease. But I noted proudly the anonymity of my other purchases—eggs, butter, tofu, broccoli, and Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream Flavored Potato Chips.

The increasing abundance of nonspecialty brands in my grocery basket is encouraging evidence of the growing willingness of major food companies to specify allergens in products’ ingredients.

I’ll never forget the joy of finding the online Frito-Lay list of Products Not Containing Gluten, with the Web page’s old forest green background, and realizing I could still devour my beloved Cheetos. Then I found the recently expanded list and discovered my old vending machine staple and tonight’s perfect (yes, Mom and Dad, perfect) Monday dinner—the Ruffle’s flavored potato chips.

While enjoying them from the lovely pink-and-purple bowl handmade for me by my boyfriend, however, I noticed a troubling disclaimer at the end of the wonderfully long Frito-Lay product list. The disclaimer, promising no gluten ingredients but warning of production on equipment shared with wheat, is disappointingly similar to the half-hearted assurances provided by the deceptive Trader Joe’s new g logo. “No gluten ingredients” is the only guarantee from both these companies.

I agonized over the decision of whether to allow such products into my diet after I came home from Trader Joe’s this past Friday with items for creating sundaes with my boyfriend. I’d purchased the company’s vanilla ice cream and Midnight Moo—both items included on the Trader Joe’s product list of No Gluten Ingredients Used, but both items warning of manufacturing on equipment shared with wheat.

That evening, I guiltily indulged in a potentially gluten-tinged sundae, for I knew I’d eaten numerous similarly labeled items and still passed the new, strict blood tests for the antibodies. Yet I did send the ice cream home with my boyfriend. The Midnight Moo, however, still lingers in my fridge and begs to be drizzled over my morning cereal. But I’m wary of giving in, for although the Trader Joe’s product list includes an assurance of good manufacturing practices to segregate allergens on shared equipment, these items’ lables, unlike many other of the company’s labels, did not bear such an assurance.

Frito-Lay, however, at the end of its product list, kindly provides a promise of washed equipment lines. And so, every couple of Mondays, I’ll continue to make a quick stop on my way home from work and place an incognito bag of chips on the checkout line conveyor belt.


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