I just wanted to post a follow-up to my earlier post about theApplegate Recall and the GIG Gluten-Free Product Certification (GFCO) program.  In my original post, I posed an open question to GIG Executive Director, Cynthia Kupper.  That question was:

How many inspectors does GIG have for its certification process and do these inspectors visit each facility at least once a year?

I asked the question again on April 6th after Ms. Kupper contacted me via Facebook and left it on the table for a response.  To-date I have not received a response nor do I think that I will.  I am guessing that answering the question would open GIG up to increased criticism because something tells me that they are not visiting every certified location around the globe (remember it is an international program) at least once a year.  In all of her responses, Ms. Kupper has been rather dismissive that the rigor of the certification program should even come under scrutiny.

I was able to access GIG’s public 2011 Federal 990 filing (only the 2010 was available at the time of my original post) and their certification program revenue is now listed at $899,302 and even after $415,241 in listed expenses it is still their main profit center which says something.  That’s a 58.6% jump in revenue over the previous year for the certification program.

I also find that it speaks volumes that nowhere (at least to my knowledge) on the GIG or GFCO Web sites does it even mention that one of their “certified” products was even under a recall.  I suppose why bite the hand that feeds you?  A recall of this magnitude and GIG’s lack of transparency with their certification program has led me to place very little value on the certified gluten-free logo – and I am clearly not alone based on some of the comments and e-mails I received from many of you.  I don’t question that they have good intentions but I do question whether or not they should be in the certification process period.

So, it is caveat emptor when it comes to purchasing certified gluten-free products and quite frankly the GFCO logo will no longer play a role when this Celiac is doing his shopping.  I remain of the mindset that you simply cannot certify something that has no real standards.

17 responses on “Applegate Recall and GFCO Update

  1. Ellie says:

    Wow, really unbelieveable. I get that these advocacy organizations are businesses but they need to stop focusing on areas that are purely revenue generators that don’t really do anything other than give people a false sense of security.

  2. Tom says:

    Amazing. GIG makes it sound like they are doing it for the greater good but clearly there is still a monetary bottom line.

  3. Josephine says:

    I am of the mindset that every little bit helps and while not perfect (actually far from it after the recent incident) it does make me feel a bit more comfortable when purchasing.

    • Gluten Free Mike says:

      I used to feel the same way but this was a good wake-up call for me because I’ll be the first to admit that it was easy to get lulled into a false sense of security with packaged goods.

  4. Allison says:

    Really makes you wonder whether these organizations are really in it to make a difference or make money.

  5. Jill says:

    Wow, all I can say is who knew? I can see why they never really acknowledged the recall — money.

  6. Kaye says:

    This is just another case of an organization operating outside of where it should be. Look at what hapened with the NFCA Amber designation and Dominos. These “pay the fee, get the seal” type of arrangements just lull the public into a false sense of security.

  7. Alex says:

    I can safely say that when I look at a package I will no longer look for the certified seal but rather do my own homework and ask questions directly to the company. If more companies would take it on themselves to demonstrate to their customers that their facilities and products are “safe” for Celiac than they’d save a lot of money which they are clearly now paying to groups like GIG.

  8. Jim says:

    I think that GIG really needs to address the fact that their program did not work in the Applegate incident and find it troubling that they never even bothered to address the recall.

  9. Lisa says:

    This really makes you think if some of these organizations are in it for the greater good or just themselves.

  10. Betty says:

    Really disheartening but in the end I suppose these organizations still have a bottom line and must make money.

  11. Susan says:

    I too used to find comfort in the certified logo but it just goes to show that we have to be responsible as Celiacs to ensure that we are eating as safe as possible. In the end, it is our own responsibility.

  12. Julian says:

    Really disappointing that there is such a lack of clarity with GIG’s program. I also find it amazing that they never even bothered to address this issue on their site.

  13. Jill says:

    If these organizations are supposed to be advocates for us then they need to be held responsible, and own up to, their missteps.

  14. Noah says:

    Really demonstrates that we must do our own research into companies to feel comfortable with their manufacturing processes or ingredients.

  15. Michelle says:

    Sounds like not just the manufacturers are benefiting financially in the increased popularity of gluten-free products but so are the advocacy groups.

  16. Paul says:

    I have read all the comments with a keen and vested interest, only to agree with all parties in the most-part. Consumers are relying on these organizations and their “standards” to assure them about purchasing safe products, for their unique health conditions. These types of independent industry driven claims need to be backed up by a vigorous set of proven food safety-based standards, which are then annually (minimum) verified by an independent third-party body, who are also pre-qualified and trained in the business of routinely conducting risk-based assessments/audits. The overseeing organization…this case GFCO cannot “suck and blow” at the same time and should be setting an example. I would think a non-for profit organization like GIG should be held accountable for demonstrating their own commitment when it comes to setting up the necessary firewalls, so to avoid any conflict of interest issues and delivering a transparent value proposition for their certified products.

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