When I first went GF, people offered me things made with spelt. I said no thank you because I had done my research and found that spelt is not okay to eat on a gluten free diet. "Oh come on," they would say. "It's not wheat flour!" Oh no dear friends; it's derived from wheat. This brings me to another point: Just because a flour is an alternative flour does not mean it is a gluten free flour.
These seem like basic things to say. Especially if my readers are allergic readers, so let me explain what's causing me to post this reminder.
Every now and then, I do a quick keyword search for gluten free food in my area, usually on Yelp or Google. Since more and more people have been diagnosed with Celiac or have become gluten intolerant, there are more options popping up every day for allergic eaters. But dear reader while clicking on some of the restaurant reviews and glowing recommendations for these "new options," I was shocked and dismayed. People were raving about gluten free pastries, crepes, and breads all made from Spelt. How can this be folks if Spelt is NOT gluten free?
I don't know if it's just a matter of poor self-education/research, or misdirection of the proprietors of these establishments (and I hope it's not the latter) but somehow people are not understanding that they could be putting themselves in danger by eating Spelt. These were different reviewers, attending countless different shops, and yet they all were eating their "gluten free" spelt goods (which as covered, were not gluten free.)
So what does this mean? What does it mean that out of every 10 or 20 places at least 35%-50% of the reviewers marked Spelt goods as gluten-free?
It means we need to do a better job. We as people, we as allergics, we as retailers and restaurateurs, we as mothers, teachers, friends, advisers and nutritionists. We need to do a better job and be active in our research, diligent in our knowledge of what is okay and not okay to ingest, and we need to be friends to our allergics (even if we're not allergic ourselves) and not offer them Spelt goods which are not, NOT gluten free because we've done the research.
It's so easy to be lazy nowadays. G-d, I'm so guilty of that sometimes! But we can't get lazy with our health. If we get lazy with our health, you know what happens? We don't have us anymore. We have sick us. And we all know that sick us is not fun or happy us.
Today, I urge you to be an educator. It can be as easy as when someone asks you why you can't eat something, you telling them specifically why. Maybe me just saying no thank you wasn't enough. Maybe me saying instead, thanks, but spelt isn't gluten free and I can't have gluten would have stopped them from trying to serve spelt as a gluten free alternative. We're taught it's not polite to question the host or hostess of a dinner party or get together, but what's more important: being safe and healthy or being polite? I say give details! Tell people what you can't eat, but more importantly why you can't eat it. Maybe then I won't see so many people ecstatic over erroneously gluten free goods.
Thanks for listening to my rant and continue eating safely :)