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Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Crunchmaster Crackers and Confusion
I have blogged about Crunchmaster Crackers before*, but truth be told, I never tried them until last month when I was sent free samples by the company.

The Crunchmaster Multi-Grain Crackers come in three flavors and I was sent the White Cheddar as a sample. I did try eat some of these crackers even though "oat fiber" is an ingredient. These White Cheddar Multi-grain crackers and all Crunchmaster products are certified gluten-free, but I usually make it a habit of not eating oats at all. In all honesty, I didn't actually notice this "oat fiber" ingredient until after I already ate a few crackers. This was careless on my part since I usually obsess over ingredients before trying anything new. The website and the packaging all said "Certified Gluten-Free" and I took their word on it. I hoped for the best but expected the worst, luckily I had no noticeable oat-based reaction.

Even though these crackers tasted good, I will not buy them again due to this ingredient. Please note, my choice to not eat oats is a personal preference after more than thirty years of never eating oats. Many people have no problem whatsoever with "gluten-free oats" but I choose not to eat them. This is not a reflection on Crunchmaster products, but again is my personal choice. I have lived without oats my entire life and don't feel that I am missing anything by not eating gluten-free oats. My PR contact for Crunchmaster did check with the parent company and said "that they use a certified gluten free oat fiber that is a bit more expensive, but worth it to Crunchmaster as it adds more fiber and nutrition to their products." More expensive doesn't put me at ease, but at least they are using a certified oat fiber in their product.

What I did find really interesting about this oat question was the confusing information on the Crunchmaster website. On the "Go Gluten Free" page, the very first sentence says "Gluten is a natural protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats." But on the "Grown For You" page, the middle paragraph says "Several studies have shown that amaranth seed, like oats, may be of benefit for those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease." To someone new to the gluten-free diet, this could be really confusing especially if their doctor told them to avoid oats. I think Crunchmaster should address the "oat issue" on their website and be really open and honest about their use of gluten-free oats.

On the flip side, Crunchmaster does address the question of certification on their FAQ page. They state "All Crunchmaster products are Certified Gluten Free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization. GFCO standards are met through a rigorous process of third-party audits and frequent product and ingredient testing at the manufacturing facility. The GFCO sets strict standards that finished products may not contain more than 10 ppm gluten, twice as strict as the proposed FDA and Codex definitions for gluten free. Every production run of our Crunchmaster products are tested prior to shipment for added assurance that they meet our high standards."

Quite honestly, I don't like to be so confused when trying to get information about the products I am eating. From a non-oat eating point of view, I think Crunchmaster could improve their FAQ section by specifically addressing gluten-free oats vs regular oats. Then again, this is one of those controversial topics in the gluten-free community so it might have been a business decision to specifically not address the nature of the oats. Again, as a life-long Celiac this is something I want to pay attention to in ALL of the products I eat.

I also was sent a box of 7 Ancient Grains Hint of Sea Salt crackers. These were good and I felt much more at ease eating these crackers because the ingredients were much more simple and had no oats. The ingredients are "brown rice flour, potato starch, safflower oil, sorghum flour, quinoa seeds, sesame seeds, millet, flax seeds, amaranth seeds, and sea salt." They are all easily identifiable gluten-free seeds and grains. I ate these plain but could see these pairing really well with both cheeses and dips. I would buy these again and could see myself serving these at a party to all of my gluten-eating and non-gluten-eating friends. They are definitely one of those cross-population types of snacks.

Overall, although the Crunchmaster crackers were good the confusion about the oats left me less than impressed. I do understand these crackers are widely popular with the gluten-free community and are even advertised on the NFCA website but I will probably choose to stay away until some of the website and possibly packaging verbiage is clarified.

* As a new rule here at Gluten-Free Fun, I will only blog about products and recipes that I have actually personally tried and consumed. I recently learned that some gluten-free bloggers never even taste the recipes they are posting or the products they are "reviewing". This baffles me so much. How can you give honest opinions when you don't taste your own food? Going forward ALL of my reviews and recipes will cross my gluten-free lips before being posted to this site. I want to remain an honest and integrity-driven blog and in no way want to deceive my readers or even worse, post an untruthful review. Thank you.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your disclosure and personal opinions make your GF blog so believable. You give context. Everything GF isn't always rosy, delicious. I truly appreciate your opinions. You separate your preferences - you don't eat oats - from the products strengths or weaknesses. Thank you for your evaluations on GF products and recipes. It's wonderful knowing we GFers can know more than what's on the label when you review something. Often we have other dietary issues so this helps tremendously.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Gluten is a natural protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. Foods and ingredients made from these grains may also contain gluten.”

I went to the link you include for Crunchmaster. They use the wording “may also contain gluten” referring to WRBO. Poor wording, as of course we GFers know WRB DO contain gluten and the cross-contamination with OATs is a big point, not always made clearly. It tells me, if they can’t be clear about what is in Black and White - writing-, who knows what goes in that we cannot see, i.e., in the kitchen. FAQs don’t make it clear but clutter the issue with “we’re such good guys” rhetoric. No such thing as truth in advertising, more often than not, today.

Anonymous Crunchmaster Guru said...

Erin et al,
Interesting reading your blog and comments regarding our very innocent contradiction on our Crunchmaster website. Demonstrates how mistrusting we have become and quick we can jump to conclusions based on limited data. In reality, the line that is mentioned above is very similar to the wording used by several of the top celiac organizations. The reality is that our Crunchmaster products are manufactured at our product facility here in Loves Park under some of the strictest guidelines in the industry. For added assurance (in case there was ever any cross contamination of oats or other ingredients at one of our suppliers), we test every production lot in our internal gluten testing lab prior to shipment. No big conspiracy, just the highest quality, delicious and nutritious gluten free snacks and crackers in the industry.
Jim Garsow
Director of Marketing
TH Foods, Inc.

Blogger peterbronski said...

Hi Erin... Wow. I'm surprised to hear GF bloggers would post recipes they've never made, or reviews of foods they've never eaten, and pass them off as otherwise. Sketchy. Kudos for remaining committed to your integrity. That's important to me as well. Maybe you could start a reviews-only section of your blog called "Read My Gluten-Free Lips!" =)

Cheers, Pete

Blogger Erin Smith, Editor said...

Jim, thank you for your comment. I wonder what line specifically you are talking about.

Also, my "limited data" was actually based on your website and interaction with your PR person. When I get an email about the cost of gluten-free oats as a response of a question of my safety, I am turned off. I wonder if you could give me some specific examples.

Blogger Joseph said...

Hi,

I went online and Googled the phrase "Crunchmaster celiac oat" and found your article because I had a very similar experience. My nice, caring wife bought the roasted vegetable flavor. I had some, thought they were nice, and was looking at the ingredients actually wondering about what the flavors were.

I saw Oat Fiber, and spit the food out and tossed it in the trash all in a flash. I am glad to find out that they are purchasing "gluten-free oats", and hope I won't have any symptoms.

However, I kind of like you describe, see no reason to eat oats. Oats are nice I guess, but how could it be worth the risk? Bottom line is, being glutened really hurts, and I do every single thing I can to try to control that pain, and oat fiber in a cracker simply does not justify even a miniscule risk.

Thanks for writing this.

-Joseph

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