Decoding Labels

When we see the label “free-range” or “free-roaming” on poultry, we may picture an idyllic scene with chickens walking around on a grassy field, stretching their wings, getting sunshine and exercise, pecking on tasty “organic” feed, and in general living happier, healthier lives.  But did you know that in order to use the label “free-range” on poultry, chickens need to have access to the outside for only five minutes a day?  And when the “free-range” claim is applied to eggs, it means absolutely nothing.
In an effort to protect our health, many of us pay more for foods labeled “Organic,” “Cage-Free,” “Raised Without Antibiotics.” But some of the time these claims are misleading and do little to insure our good health.
  • “USDA Organic” label on fruits and vegetables:  Crops must meet the USDA standard, that is they must have been grown without most synthetic and petroleum-derived fertilizers or pesticides, antibiotics, irradiation, or genetic engineering.
  • “USDA Organic” label on meat: The animals must be fed only with organically grown feed without animal byproducts, and should not be given hormones and antibiotics. Animals must have access to the outdoors — although when the label is applied to poultry (chickens, turkeys, etc.) the animals don’t necessarily need to actually spend time outdoors.
  • “Organic” label on fish:  This means absolutely nothing.
  • “Cage-Free” label on eggs: Implies hens not kept in cages, but the claim doesn’t mean the hens had enough room to move around freely or that they had access to the outdoors.  This claim is not regulated.
  • “No Antibiotics Administered” or “Raised without Antibiotics” labels: These claims imply that the animals did not receive any antibiotics; however, this claim is NOT verified by any outside agency.
  • “No Hormones Administered” label: It is illegal to administer hormones to poultry or hogs, so this claim means only that the producer has followed the law.  When applied to meat, the label implies that no hormones are used, but the claim is NOT verified by any independent agency.

Two great resources on labeling:

Consumer Reports

So, where does all of this leave us?  Some great options for you and your family include:

  • Purchase products with meaningful labels, such as USDA organic produce and grass-fed meats
  • Buy more of your food from fatmer’s markets, local farms, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.

Thanks to Fran Callahan of the Kaplan Center for helping compile links.

Passover: A G-Free Delight March 2011 Newsletter

Passover: A Great Gluten-free Selection!

Passover isn’t here until April, but many of the products are already starting to appear in grocery stores.  Not all Passover foods are gluten-free, but many are, and there’s a much wider selection than usual at the grocery store.  This can be a good time to stock up on GF cakes and mixes, cookies, macaroons, “bread” crumbs and supplies like potato starch.  As an added bonus for people with multiple restrictions, most Kosher for Passover products contain no corn or soy products, either.

In a nutshell, the basic rule of foods for Passover is no leavened foods, which eliminates normal breads, cakes etc.  Matzo, (an unleavened bread usually made from wheat) is eaten, and some products contain products Matzo and matzo meal, (also potentially listed as cake meal or farfel).  However, many products don’t contain gluten.  Or, if you find products labeled “non-gebrok or gebroktz or grebrochts” (or another spelling variation) they’re non-grain containing and therefore have no gluten-containing ingredients. Often Kosher for Passover products and cakes are made of potato flour or nut meals rather than wheat or glutinous grains.

  • As always in the gluten-free world, read labels carefully.  Kosher and Kosher for Passover are two different things entirely.  Kosher for Passover foods will be labeled “May be used for Passover” or have a symbol that says OUP.  I have often seen “regular” Kosher foods in the Passover section at grocery stores, so please do check the labels for gluten containing ingredients.
  • Keep in mind that some of the foods are imported from other countries, and imports are often not labeled according to the 2004 FALCPA U.S. labeling laws.  So a label will still say matzo, but may not say wheat explicitly or have the disclaimer stating that it contains wheat.
  • Most Kosher for Passover products will have to adhere to strict standards for cross contamination from a religious perspective, but again, buyer beware and no guarantees.  “Made in a factory” claims are still not regulated.
  • From a gluten-free perspective, possibly the best part of Passover is AFTER Passover, when all of the great gluten-free goodies are on sale!  Passover ends April 26th, so mark your calendars, because the word has gotten out in gluten-free circles and the mad rush is on.

Here’s a link to the gluten-free products from Manishewitz:

Back when you really couldn’t get gluten-free prepared foods in the regular grocery store, this was a much bigger deal.  But it’s still nicer to have an expanded selection, and nicest of all is AFTER Passover, when all of the products are on sale!

For people who DO celebrate the actual holiday of Passover, not just the gluten-free food, here are some great recipes and information: and click on holidays.  There are quite a few Jewish holiday recipes, and they are all gluten and dairy free

You can make matza, but it’s not technically Kosher for Passover–unless, of course, you happen to have a Rabbi on hand to bless it and all that jazz.  You can also buy gluten-free oat matzoh made from certified gluten-free oats.  The only downside is that it is insanely expensive! (new note–Yehuda matza is now in the stores, and they do have a GF line–only $6 a box.  Wow!)  Shmura Oat Matzah is distributed by a mom in MD Lakewood Shmura Matzo

Shabtai Gourmet products are made in a dedicated gluten-free facility, they’re and Kosher for Passover AND often they have free shipping deals.  And, most importantly, they’re insanely tasty.

Kids with Food Allergies put out a booklet last year on Passover with food restrictions.


DC Celiacs (free):

Next Meeting Date: Saturday, March 19, 2011, 2:00–4:00 pm 

Meeting Topic: “Healthy Gluten-Free Eating” (and tasting samples!)
Speaker: Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD

Once people settle into a gluten-free diet, there are four complaints I hear on a regular basis:
*I’m gaining weight
*I’m constipated
*I’m so bored of rice and baked potatoes!
*I don’t think my diet is healthy anymore.

So we’ll be talking about a wide variety of gluten-free sources of fiber, B vitamins and other nutrients, from teff and millet to quinoa, chia, flax and more and of course, how to use them.  You’ll even get a chance to taste some of them, thanks to a few wonderful volunteers. We’ll make a dish at the meeting so you can see how easy it is!

It should be a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Vendors: Bready Baking System ( )
Cherry Blossom Cakes ( )

Location: Bethesda Central Library (Maryland)
7400 Arlington Road, Bethesda, MD 20814


Chesapeake Bay Area Gluten-Free Vendor Fair–Annapolis, MD

CSG will host our 3rd and largest Gluten-Free Vendor Fair! The Entrance Fee is $5.00 for age 13 and up. Goodie bags will be provided! Vendors may still apply to come – contact! Watch this website for a list of Vendors attending!


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