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In tandem with National Celiac Disease Awareness Month in May, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America division has introduced a multi-year initiative to validate many of their products as gluten-free, with new package labeling to follow. Since many of the company’s snacks, including Lay’s Classic potato chips and Fritos Original corn chips, are made from simple ingredients like corn or potatoes, they’ve always been free of gluten.
Rather than removing gluten from existing products, Frito-Lay has developed a gluten-free validation process, in cooperation with the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF), for testing ingredients and finished products to make sure that they contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten before making a “gluten free” claim. This level is in accordance with the limit determined by the FDA in its Proposed Rule for Gluten Free Labeling (2007).
Additionally, Frito-Lay is teaming with the CDF and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to inform consumers and health professionals of gluten-free resources and options. Activities through these partnerships will include development of educational content in English and Spanish, and cross-promotion via social media.
“We understand that living with gluten sensitivities can present some challenges, and when you or a loved one is diagnosed it, can be overwhelming and confusing,” said Kari Hecker Ryan, group manager of nutrition science and regulatory affairs at Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay North America, a division of PepsiCo in Purchase, N.Y. “We are doing our due diligence to ensure that our validated products comply with the proposed standards by testing ingredients and finished products, so the shopper can trust our gluten-free claim.”
“Frito-Lay will make label reading especially easy for gluten sensitive consumers, as it is starts to include its own Gluten Free symbol or claim on qualified snack products,” noted Marilyn Geller, COO of Woodland Hills, Calif.-based CDF, a nonprofit voluntary health organization dedicated to providing services and support regarding celiac disease and gluten sensitivity through awareness, education, advocacy and research.
“Gluten-free grocery shopping can be stressful at times, especially for those newly diagnosed," added Alice Bast, president of the nonprofit NFCA, which, through its comprehensive website, provides a variety of resources to both consumers and professionals, among them free webinars, cooking videos and printable guides. “The transition to the gluten-free diet is easier when familiar brands already in the pantry make a gluten-free commitment. Frito-Lay's effort to provide its customers with easy-to-access information is commendable, and we would like to see more national brands embrace this level of clarity.”
The gluten-free claim that Frito-Lay is adding to qualified products appears as a “GF” icon and/or a statement on the back of the bag. Packaging changes are being gradually phased in. Meanwhile, consumers can check online to find out which Frito-Lay products qualify as gluten-free.