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July 16, 2012 at 6:00 AM

A ‘killer’ reminder: Spelt is not gluten-free

A bread that wasn’t gluten-free caused a dustup with gluten-free customers over the weekend. Here’s the catch: The bread’s label doesn’t claim that it’s gluten-free.

What the Dave’s Killer Bread manufacturers do say about their spelt bread is that the FDA classifies spelt as wheat, and “I wouldn’t want people to think Good Seed Ancient Grain (Spelt) is gluten-free.” However, the website continues, “lots of wheat-sensitive people have discovered that this bread totally agrees with them.”

The problem, of course, comes when people have health issues where spelt doesn’t agree with them. (Here’s a good summary of the spelt-vs.-wheat debate.)

Seattle cookbook author Jeanne Sauvage (we’ve talked with her about food allergies before) posted on her blog that she was served that bread at a restaurant that called it gluten-free. Sauvage wrote that she has a life-threatening wheat allergy and the mistake sent her to the hospital to be treated for anaphylaxis.

Portland-based Dave’s pointed out that the bread is not gluten-free, and said “we have NEVER said otherwise, to anyone at any time.” Sauvage argues that their website description is confusing.

Others on Twitter picked up the argument, saying there’s no point in suggesting that spelt is a good alternative for people who have problems with wheat. Dave’s replied that people who have problems with wheat come in all forms (i.e., not all have celiac disease or allergies or other health issues where they would need to avoid spelt). In the end, the Dave’s folks said they’d reconsider the label if people find it misleading.

I’m a fan of Dave’s bread, and I don’t find the company’s description confusing. On the other hand, my health doesn’t depend on reading it correctly or being sure that it’s been thoroughly vetted by others.

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