Timothy Egan’s Dec. 31 piece, “Whatevs: Words for the Dumpster,” was obviously an attempt at humor to end the year. Perhaps so, until you come to his comments on “gluten-free.”
It would appear Egan does not have a family member with celiac disease. I do: My wife, one of the individuals in the “1 percent of the population” he speaks of. She has had to manage her diet to exclude any trace of gluten for a number of years now. It is serious stuff. Exposure to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other grasses, will cause bloating, diarrhea and other symptoms lasting four to five days, not to mention triggering an autoimmune reaction damaging the small intestinal lining.
Unless the food package says “gluten-free,” we must consider the product unsafe for her to eat unless we know otherwise. None of the grasses mentioned in the ingredients? Then we have to consider hidden gluten found in some maltodextrins and other secondary ingredients. Seeing “gluten-free” specified on more and more products is a breath of fresh air, allowing someone with celiac disease greater choices of nourishing foods. “Gluten-free” is not a joke. It is a daily challenge.