Thursday 27 October 2011

PPM, Do You Understand What It Means? I Didn't

PPM = parts per million. That's how much gluten in is your gluten free foods.

Hang on, surely I just wrote that wrong, right? How much gluten is IN my gluten free foods?! Yep, you read it right and I wrote it right. If you are a new coeliac this might be news to you.

Up until earlier this year I had no idea about PPM. I'd read bits and bobs but to be honest, it all went over my head. That was until I was glutened by a gluten free product.

I thought I was going mad, I had eaten a Genius Chicken and Mushroom Pie and later that night while I was in bed, it started, the glutening effects began. How could I have been glutened? I had grazed on familiar food earlier in the day and I just had the pie alone for dinner. I know my body well enough to know what had caused it, but how could I get glutened by a gluten free pie???

For the record, I didn't even finish the pie, it was vile. The filling may as well have come out of a cheap cat food tin. That's my beef (on this occasion) with Genius, the quality of the product was a disgrace.

I can't have a problem with Genius with regards to being glutened by one of their pies because there is no law that (currently) states that the PPM of a product has to be put on packaging. At the time, even if it had been would it meant anything to me? In all honesty, I don't know.

The thing is since I discovered I was a coeliac in January 2009 (can't believe it isn't longer, but my other half confirms it) I thought that eating gluten free products meant just that. I had no idea that these supposedly safe items could still hurt me.

I had extensive communication with Genius about the incident and it was handled in a very professional, courteous manner. If it were for any other problem other than being glutened I would applaud the customer service, but it's a serious heath concern and that comes first. They glutened me.

What I found out through testing which Genius did is that the type of pie I ate usually had <5PPM. They couldn't find a higher PPM.

Either the batch mine came from was dodgy or I'm just that sensitive, I still don't know to this day as in the UK at least, testing for gluten only goes down to 5PPM.

It took me a good 6 weeks to get over that incident and now I'm fully clued up on what PPM means. When you eat a gluten free food item, be aware that legally it can contain up to 20PPM of gluten.

In January 2012 all manufacturers will only legally be able to list that a product is Gluten Free if it has 20PPM or less and a more complicated and useless label (in my opinion) of Very Low Gluten if it contains 21-100PPM.

So there's the minefield of gluten free foods. If you're getting symptoms and you don't know why, check the gluten free foods you've been eating, you may get a surprise.

As for that Genius Chicken and Mushroom Pie, this is what it looked like:

genius chicken mushroom pie

Stay safe!

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