Making Gluten-Free Flours & Mixes
Many of us had heard of Bob’s Red Mill before going gluten-free. Founded by Bob Moore and his wife Charlee in the 1970s, they began making gluten-free products more than three decades ago but admit to having had a learning curve about the importance of testing the product. Bob’s Red Mill says, “Once he understood, he found a qualified person to run our Quality Assurance Department. We began gluten free testing in-house in the fall of 2000.” (Read on to learn more about their current testing procedures.) They now offer just about every gluten-free flour imaginable in addition to gluten-free mixes with all of their current mixes except the Gluten Free Pizza Crust developed by well-known gluten-free cookbook author Carol Fenster. The company the Moore’s founded is now employee-owned; he gave it to them on his 81st birthday.
If you’ve used their products, please share your results. Which have you tried? Did it work well? What did you make?
Bob’s Red Mill answered some questions in their own words.
I have read that the gluten-free area is part of a building where wheat is processed and I’ve also read that it’s in a separate building. Which is it?
We have a separate facility within our main facility where we produce our gluten-free products. It is all under one roof, but the gluten-free facility has separate ventilation, dedicated employees and equipment and strong controls in place to prevent anything that contains gluten from ever entering the gluten free facility. Additionally, we have a separate lab where only gluten-free testing is done to ensure our gluten-free tests are entirely accurate.
Please go into detail about how incoming gluten-free materials are kept separate from those with gluten.
When product is received, it is initially tested for gluten to be sure that what we received is indeed gluten-free. Once it passes a gluten test, the product is moved into a gluten-free quarantine room in our gluten-free facility. We are a HACCP certified facility, which means, among other things, all of our staff are well-versed in good manufacturing practices and have been trained in preventing cross contact between gluten, as well as other major allergens.
What is your testing process? Why don’t you test down to 10ppm and why don’t you become certified gluten free?
We test in a dedicated gluten free lab using the R5 ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay) test. We feel 19 ppm is a sufficient maximum, until the government releases a mandate requiring a specific level. Most of our products do not even come close to 19 ppm, but that is the maximum threshold we’ve set for our products. Many do come as low as 5 to 10 ppm. We have not felt that becoming gluten free certified will be beneficial to our business. We have looked into the GFCO many times in the past and are not comfortable with how they do business. For instance, if we have a corn product that does not test below 19 ppm, we move it into our regular facility and use it for our conventional products. The GFCO would require that our product is quarantined and we would be unable to sell it. We feel our in house practices are more than sufficient to ensure our products are gluten-free.
I can assure you, though, that when the FDA releases guidance for the gluten-free industry, we will be among the first to adopt the measures, no matter how strict. We have been working with them since 2005, when our Vice President was asked to testify at the FDA’s hearings regarding the state of the gluten-free industry, to encourage legislation that would set a standard practice in place, and we anticipate it will likely be 20 ppm. We feel there are many in our industry who cut corners and do not take gluten-free as seriously as we do and feel government guidance will be the best way to control the safety of gluten-free foods.
Will any new GF products come out in 2012?
Yes, we will be launching Gluten Free Thick Rolled Oats and Gluten Free Oat Bran at Expo West in early March and have plans to release a new gluten-free hot cereal later in the year, although I am not at liberty to share more than that about that particular item. We have several new mixes in the works, but I can’t say if they’ll be ready by fall of 2012 or spring of 2013.
(Disclaimer: This company did not pay me to write this post. I like learning more about a company and enjoy sharing that with you. This is also not a recommendation that you should eat their products – you alone choose what you eat and/or feed your family.)