Food rant below–have no fear, yarn-filled Maryland Sheep and Wool follow-up to come later today.

If you eat bread, even bread made at home, you’re most likely consuming wheat gluten–the same ingredient causing problems in all the bad pet food (and now chicken feed) a few weeks back. The FDA has little control over what goes into your bread because, not surprisingly, many of the vital ingredients are imported from China. This morning on National Public Radio, there was a story saying that the newly appointed FDA “czar” has basically no power (not unlike most czars in history, US or otherwise), even though he was appointed in response to the pet food crisis.

A story this morning in the Kansas City Star says our wheat gluten was mostly produced domestically until 2000 when import quotas were lifted. Subsequently, most domestic producers went out of business. According to the star, [it is] “estimated that the U.S. consumes about 530 million pounds of wheat gluten annually. Government figures show that about 386 million pounds of that were imported.”

Take Action
What does all this mean? To me, It means I want to know where my food comes from. The best way to do that is to buy your food as close to its source of manufacture as possible. Barring that, caveat emptor, be an informed consumer.

Ask Your Baker
Ask at your bakery where they get their gluten. More pointedly, ask if any of their ingredients are produced in China. If you buy bread at a grocery store, look at the packaging. Visit the web site listed and send them an e-mail. Call customer service numbers. If there aren’t any on the packaging, Google the company, you’ll most likely find something. It takes consumers telling companies they care where their ingredients come from for change to happen.

Let me know when you’ve found out, and I’ll create a web-list of bread companies that use domestic gluten. I may also try and contact the two remaining domestic producers to see if they can provide a client list.

UPDATE: I got a return phone call this morning from the customer service people who support Vermont Bread Company and Rudy’s Organic Bread Company. It was voicemail, so I didn’t get a chance to ask any followups, but they said their gluten comes from Canada.

Talk to your Representatives
Stronger FDA oversight is needed to insure the safety of imported ingredients. This will take new legislation. Call or e-mail to let your representatives know you’re concerned about where your food comes from.

Beyond Food Safety
The importation of ingredients like wheat and soy have effects beyond food safety. Domestic farmers and manufacturers are going out of business. Support your local growers and local bakeries, and small local manufacturers. Visit local farms and farmers’ markets. Get to know your food producers. My friend and fellow knitting blogger, Hannah and her family do a great job finding local sources for almost anything, and she writes periodically about it on her blog. I’m looking forward to reading the new book by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, where she chronicles a year of eating food “from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air.”

The Other Kind of Fiber

5 thoughts on “The Other Kind of Fiber

  • May 7, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Interesting that you brought this up because I am suspecting my stomach problems may be a gluten problem and starting keeping track of “issues”.
    I will look into this here at home-thanks for the post!

  • May 7, 2007 at 9:35 am

    I’ve been ranting for weeks about this.
    Sometimes it really seems as if no one really cares where their food comes form as long as they get it.
    Thanks for the info.

  • May 7, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Thanks for addressing this issue. Kingsolver’s book is great–and we’re looking forward to reading the new book Plenty as well.

    I’ve not had great luck finding bread flour locally, although I have seen it for sale from non-local independent organic growers.

    If one does not add gluten to one’s bread, does that mean that homemade bread does not have processed wheat gluten? (All bread has gluten, but not necessarily the processed problematic kind.) Does some “bread flour” have it added? I was under the impression it did not–but now I need to go find this out. Thought we were safe….

  • May 7, 2007 at 9:59 am

    The 100 Mile Diet has a website (linked). Oddly, this is the same book as Plenty; apparently the US publisher changed the title. There’s some pretty great info on the site, and I bet some CBC broadcasts could be dug up. Also, this started as a series in the BC-based web paper The Tyee

  • May 8, 2007 at 4:29 am

    The goverment wants to help the farmers, well, instead of taking tax money for ethenol production use it to prevent us from neededing to import things we can grown and produce ourselves… It will serve the domestic farmers better, it will serve the American people better and it will make us self suffecient, no more need for import, just a want to.

    There are green car ideas that have been held back that you need no more than a few gallons of water and a few solar panels for, why not assist in that for the green fuel. That way, no one loses except for the gas giants that have seen record profits for two years while the American people can’t get to work.

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