PepsiCo's Frito-Lay North America division recently announced a multi-year initiative to validate many of their products as gluten free, with package labeling to follow.
Since many of the company's snacks, such as Lay's Classic potato chips and Fritos Original corn chips are made from simple ingredients like corn or potatoes, they are, and always have been, naturally made without gluten ingredients.
Frito-Lay is not removing gluten from products, rather, has developed a gluten free validation process with input from the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) and the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) for testing ingredients and finished products to ensure they contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten before making a "gluten free" claim. This level is in accordance with the limit set forth by the FDA in its Proposed Rule for Gluten Free Labeling (2007).
May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Celiac disease is a digestive disorder triggered by intolerance to gluten, a generic name for certain types of proteins contained in the common cereal grains wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives. It is one of the most common genetic autoimmune conditions in the world and often goes undiagnosed.
It is estimated three million Americans have celiac disease and up to 21 million may have some level of gluten sensitivity. The only treatment is a lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet.
Frito-Lay is partnering with the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to educate consumers and health professionals about gluten free resources and options. Activities through Frito-Lay's partnerships will include development of educational content in English and Spanish, and cross promotion through social media channels.
"We understand that living with gluten sensitivities can present some challenges, and when you or a loved one is diagnosed it can be overwhelming and confusing. We are doing our due diligence to ensure that our validated products comply with the proposed standards by testing ingredients and finished products, so the shopper can trust our gluten free claim," said Kari Hecker Ryan, PhD, RD, group manager of nutrition science and regulatory affairs, Frito-Lay North America.
"We are also proud to be partnering with Celiac Disease Foundation and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, as the work they do is so important to those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities as well as their support systems," said Danielle Dalheim, RD, associate principal nutrition scientist, Frito-Lay North America. "We know that these two organizations are the go-to resources for those who are on a medically-prescribed gluten free diet, and we are committed to supporting their missions."
The Celiac Disease Foundation is a non-profit, voluntary health organization, dedicated to providing services and support regarding celiac disease and gluten sensitivity through programs of awareness, education, advocacy and research. "Frito-Lay will make label reading especially easy for gluten sensitive consumers, as it is starts to include its own Gluten Free symbol or claim on qualified snack products," states Marilyn Geller, chief operating officer, Celiac Disease Foundation. "We thank Frito-Lay for their support of our mission to raise awareness and increase the rate of diagnosis."
"Gluten free grocery shopping can be stressful at times, especially for those newly diagnosed," says Alice Bast, president, National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. "The transition to the gluten free diet is easier when familiar brands already in the pantry make a gluten free commitment. Frito-Lay's effort to provide its customers with easy-to-access information is commendable and we would like to see more national brands embrace this level of clarity." NFCA, through its comprehensive website (celiaccentral.org) provides a variety of resources to both consumers and professionals including free webinars, cooking videos and printable guides.