Gluten Free Certification Program > Newsletters > Newsletter – Winter 2018



Newsletter – Winter 2018



In This Edition…..


Message from the President.

– read more


Welcome Kinnikinnick and Other Exciting New Brands!

– read more


Change In Prerequisite Requirement for CB’s Applying for ANAB Accreditation

– read more


Celiac Disease Research Neglected in Federal Funding

– read more


Key Considerations in Adopting a Gluten-Free Standard

– read more


Smart Cookie

– read more


Certification Could Mean Saving Lives

– read more


What Are Consumers Saying?

– read more


Gluten-Free Industry, Consultant & Auditor Online Training Is Now Live!

– read more


Grocery Innovations Canada, SQF, FQMC, PLMA and More!

– read more


Accelerate New Food Ideas From “Concept to Commercialization”

– read more


Message from the President

Paul Valder, President & CEO, Allergen Control Group Inc.

Well, as we place a “wrap” on 2017, it’s hard to believe we have accomplished so much; both with our GFCP brand partners and the overall progress ACG has accomplished, on the global “free-from” food scene.

This past year, GFCP proudly announced accreditation in ISO 17021-1 Gluten Management System Certification, from ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board in Washington, DC. I would like to recognize Perry Johnson Registrars Inc., based in Michigan, as the very first North American certification body (CB) to meet the new GFCP ISO requirement. Hopefully, we will also be welcoming many more GFCP CB’s, who have volunteered to meet this new stringent requirement, before the end of 2018.

To better serve customer demand in 2017, ACG expanded its global auditor base to over 300 GFSI experienced and GFCP trained food auditors and is also in the process of adding another accreditation body in the Asia/Pacific Region.

Actively participating in many globally recognized food safety and allergy focussed industry events and addressing gluten and allergens as a serious food safety issue and not just a health claim, continues to position ACG as a subject matter expert. We will continue to expand our services in this “free-from” space by setting best practice standards and establishing meaningful compliance deliverables within the food industry, which will of course contribute to making a difference with consumers.

At the recent Food Marketing Institute Private Brands DC Summit, we heard from leading industry consultant Jim Wisner, of Wisner Marketing, about the terrific opportunity that US retailers have to combat the shift of the fast-growing on-line food retailers, by addressing a needed culture change and transitioning from a traditional transactional based approach with own-brand supplier bases, to a more collaborative approach. ACG encourages retailers to continue reducing food safety risks within their own-brand supply chain and also learning from their Canadian counterparts, about how to better collaborate to fully leverage/engage consistent consumer marketing/communication opportunities, around their on-pack gluten-free product claims. Increased collaboration amongst an internal cross-functional team combined with increased supplier collaboration, can reduce the risk of product failure and sell more product.

We have listened to our manufacturing customers and as of this January 2018, ACG will be launching the first of a series of affordable on-line 10-12 minute “micro” training modules, designed for front-line food handlers. Customized corporate “portal packages” will also be available for purchase. For those industry managers, supervisors, consultants and auditor, our online training and certification course is also affordably available by visiting:

In closing, thank you to our terrific loyal customers, great suppliers and strategic partners for supporting our mission to provide socially responsible services to industry and consumers. I hope that you and your families have a very happy, healthy holiday season and a prosperous and safe 2018.



Exciting New Brands to Enter the Program




Change In Prerequisite Requirement for CB’s Applying for ANAB Accreditation

With end of the year fast approaching, we would like to take the opportunity to remind all GFCP recognized Certification Bodies (CBs) of the deadline to transition to ISO/IEC 17021-1 accredited certification under the GFCP. Please refer to the announcement issued on January 11, 2017. The deadline for obtaining final accreditation before January 1st, 2019 is now only 12-months away and it takes an average of 9 to 12 months for a Certification Body to apply, present their documentation, undergo review and ultimately, to become fully accredited. ACG acknowledges that many of you are already on your way or have completed the process. Thank you.
You should be aware that since ACG first issued the announcement, there has been a change in the pre-requisite requirement for CB’s applying for ANAB accreditation.  Accreditation for ISO 22000 by ANAB is no longer the only option to meet the requirement for GFCP application. Under the revised rules, applicant CBs may be accredited for either ISO 22000 by ANAB or another IAF management systems MLA signatory Accreditation Body (AB), or be accredited for any GFSI-recognized certification program (e.g., BRC, SQF).  This change was announced in ANAB Heads Up 365.
For any questions related to accreditation, please contact Natalia Larrimer or 1.414.501.5445.
For any questions related to the GFCP, please contact Jessica Burke or 1.866.817.0952 ext. 222.
In addition, we would like to announce that ACG is in the process of recognizing JAS-ANZ, the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand, as an accreditation body under the GFCP. JAS-ANZ is an IAF MLA signatory for management systems (ISO/IEC 17021-1) and is extending its ISO/IEC 17021-1 accreditation program to include GFMS. The launch of JAS-ANZ’s GFMS program is expected in the coming weeks. More news on this to follow as it develops.
Before the end of the 2017, ACG will be in contact with all GFCP CBs to confirm their application status for accreditation as well as their plans for transitioning all current certificates.


Beyond CeliacCeliac disease research neglected in federal funding.

Amy Ratner, Beyond Celiac Medical and Science News Analyst

Celiac disease consistently received the lowest amount of federal research funding over a five-year period compared to other gastrointestinal conditions, a review of National Institutes of Health data found.

Additionally, the National Institute for Digestive and Kidney Diseases awarded the fewest number of grants to celiac disease research over the same period, from 2011 to 2015.

The review, published as commentary in the journal Gastroenterology, found that NIH funding, which is the major source of support for research in inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases, showed no association between the estimated prevalence or mortality rates of a disease.  In general, NIH support is seen as essential for improving the understanding of health and disease.
The review included celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), Barrett’s esophagus and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Prevalence: The proportion of persons in a population who have a particular disease at a specified point in time or over a specified period of time.

Mortality rate: A measure of the frequency of occurrence of death in a defined population during a specified interval.

Celiac disease poorly understood

“These data suggest that a few diseases, including celiac disease and IBS, are underfunded in comparison with other diseases, especially when prevalence, burden and available treatment options are considered,” wrote authors Sonia Kupper, M.D., of the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago, Daniel Leffler, M.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Emma Clerx, a Harvard University student.

Celiac disease, with a prevalence of about 1 percent and mortality rate of 1.3, the highest among the diseases reviewed, received about $3 million per year. Meanwhile, Crohn’s disease, which had the second lowest prevalence at .25 percent and a mortality rate of 1.1, received about $16 million per year, the highest amount of funding.

Ciaran Kelly, M.D., director of the Celiac Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said NIH neglect of celiac disease research occurs because the condition continues to be poorly understood and not well recognized by the medical community in the United States.

Celiac disease was until recently considered rare and most people who have it have not been diagnosed, he said. The increased mortality rate mentioned in the review of NIH funding, as well as the morbidity of the disease, are under-appreciated, noted Kelly, a member of the Beyond Celiac Board of Directors and its scientific and medical advisory council.

“There is a widespread assumption that the gluten-free diet is a panacea for celiac disease, consequently research and new treatments are incorrectly considered unnecessary,” he said.

The review authors noted that they are not suggesting that any one disease is more important and that prevalence is not the only measure of disease importance. But they pointed out that the inequity of funding is apparent when mortality rates are considered.  IBS and NALFD, neither of which is associated with increased mortality, still receive more funding than celiac disease.

“Although there is no global metric for disease importance, it is difficult to justify on medical and scientific bases a reason for such large and persistent funding differences,” the authors wrote. “Although Crohn’s disease has many available and emerging treatment options, celiac disease, for example, is more prevalent and has no current treatment to patients beyond the burdensome gluten-free diet.”

Patients feel the burden of celiac disease is so great that in one survey the only other condition that ranked at the same level of difficulty was end stage renal disease. And in one study, 25 percent of patients said the diet is so much of a burden that they regretted being diagnosed and would rather have continued having symptoms. 

Fewer grants awarded

When the study authors compared the number of NIH grants awarded per year, they found that Crohn’s disease received an average of 40 while celiac disease consistently received the least, at approximately eight.

All the other gastrointestinal diseases reviewed also received more grants than celiac disease in the timeframe reviewed.

NIH has the power to encourage research in desired areas, according to the review. The authors noted that EoE funding experienced an upward trend, “possibly owing to program announcements and requests for applications put out by the NIH.” The last request for funding applications for celiac disease was made by NIH 18 years ago.

Some possible reasons for the disparity in NIH funding cited by the authors include varying numbers of established research programs to recruit young investigators, fewer grants submitted because of a lack of in investigators in the field because of poor funding and narrow expertise of the peer reviews on NIH review committees.

In contrast to the diseases that get low funding, Crohn’s disease has ample public and private funding. This allows for extensive research, which in turn, favors more awards. “This may seem circuitous.  However, funding of Crohn’s disease research provides an example of the way in which success breeds success,” the authors wrote.

They conclude that intervention is necessary to improve the existent disparities in disease funding and urge national authorities to take notice and address the inequity to “improve progress across all gastrointestinal diseases and improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” 



Key Considerations in Adopting a Gluten-Free Standard

Frank Massong, VP Government & Regulatory, Allergen Control Group Inc.

The term “gluten-free” is an urgent food safety concern to the 1% of the population suffering from celiac disease and the 6% with gluten sensitivity, but it is also a concern for regulators, as evidenced by the number of gluten-related Class 1 and 2 recalls and regulatory initiatives we see.
If your food business seeks to serve this market segment, please remember that making a gluten-free claim falls into a highly regulated and scrutinized product category for consumers with a special dietary need. Failure to consider the sensitivity of the gluten-free market in brand communications and advertising can alienate an important segment of the market, and erode brand credibility and value. Consumers of gluten-free products are very savvy, use social media effectively and can be very critical of manufacturers who fail to deliver on their expectations. They also genuinely seek out recognizable point-of-purchase trademarks on packaging that effectively communicates that due diligence has been applied to the product they are purchasing.
What is Gluten?

Gluten is defined as the protein fractions from grains like wheat, rye, barley, triticale and hybrids thereof. For celiacs and gluten-sensitive individuals, a gluten-free diet is the only treatment. These people get sick when there is a failure. Therefore, it is understandable that 70% of these consumers seek out products that are connected to third party certification (e.g. a gluten-free certification program) whenever possible. Self-declarations made by manufacturers are less credible.
Over 100 million North Americans buy gluten-free products (approximately 51% of consumers). This amounts to more than $10 billion in sales, and this is growing at more than 10% annually. By participating in this market and seeking out certification, companies can benefit from the gluten-free market and its exponential growth by communicating their commitment to producing safe, reliable and trusted gluten-free products for consumers.
Becoming a Gluten-Free Facility

There are some challenges for manufacturers who want to move forward with gluten-free production. Management and employees need to become gluten-aware and fully committed to gluten-free controls as a food safety issue similar to undeclared allergens. Defining the procedures, documentation, internal limits and controls to achieve an outcome that accommodates all markets is important. After that, one needs to decide to become a dedicated gluten-free facility or continue to manage production in a combined gluten-free and non-gluten-free facility with the inherent risks of cross contamination.
There are a number of ways to consistently achieve this. Firstly, a company needs to develop a management system that calls out gluten as a chemical hazard. This is much easier if a high level food safety management system is already in place (e.g. GFSI benchmarked standard). Combining your food safety audit with a Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP) audit, the only scheme presently offering this, can result in substantial savings. Testing is an important tool but is of limited value without a management system, due to the inherent deviations of results caused by processing and cross-reactivity of ingredients. Most companies link gluten to procedures that they use to manage allergens. The key is to get good suppliers who can consistently supply gluten-free ingredients with proof, which will complement your efforts to reduce or eliminate cross-contamination with gluten (i.e. start clean…stay clean).
Regulations Vary

Regulations between countries (e.g. Canada, USA and Europe) vary and you may wish to access professional assistance to navigate the regulatory and consumer perception maze or come under a recognized certification program which facilitates this (e.g. GFCP). Leveraging certification can be effectively used to gain rapid access to the growing gluten-free market by facilitating and enabling key relationships with manufacturers, brands, retailers and consumers.


Smart CookieSmart Cookie

Melissa Secord, Executive Director, CCA

Who doesn’t like the smell of a freshly baked cookies? How about hundreds being baked at once?

That’s the delightful aroma that wafts through the production facility at Terra Cotta Foods in Georgetown, Ontario.

Of course, for people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, the warm fuzzy feeling that everyone gets when they smell cookies baking can quickly turn to caution, worry or disappointment, since cookies most often contain gluten. But at Terra Cotta Foods, you need not worry. The company may be best-known for their (gluten-filled) ice cream cookie sandwich, Ice Dawgs, but they’ve been proudly producing gluten-free cookies – along with muffins, loaves, cakes and brownies – for over a decade.

Founded in 1984 by Pat Coe, who proudly served school communities and fundraisers with peanut-free products, the company was taken over in 2012 by Jason Brass, who was happy to step in when Coe was ready to retire.

When the company expanded two years ago and moved locations just down the street, they made the decision to put in a dedicated gluten-free production area. It was a ‘no brainer’ for Brass. “Gluten-free product is a growing market with increased demand for quality, good tasting products. As a dad with a daughter with anaphylaxis, I understand personally the need for access to safe food.”


In 2013, Terra Cotta received its GFCP certification – which means that products carrying the trademark have met stringent requirements for the manufacture of gluten-free products. Using proven food safety standards and an unbiased certification process, the GFCP delivers a global standard for the production of safe, reliable gluten-free products.“We are very proud of our Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP) status,” says Brass.“We are focused on excellence. From our suppliers to our staff, we want to produce the very best gluten-free products.” The GFCP label demonstrates our credibility,” Brass says proudly. Far from feeling burdened by the audit process, Brass says he truly enjoys it. “It shows all our customers that we are a reliable, safe production facility,” he says. “Anything that comes out of our facility has gone through enormous care, testing and attention. Going GFCP took our production to another level.”

At the start of each and every day, all equipment is swabbed and tested by staff to ensure no contamination. They repeat this swabbing multiple times throughout the day. Even products that arrived from suppliers that are also certified as clean undergo another check at Terra Cotta before they are added
to any product.

Brass has made a concerted effort to educate his staff about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. “We want them to really understand why we go through these steps and why it is important to the end customer to see that GFCP seal,” he says.

As you can imagine, one of the perks of working at a food manufacturer is taste-testing the product. Ankur Goel is Terra Cotta’s recipe guru and he regularly solicits feedback from staff on new products. When it comes to making new, tasty, gluten-free products, he relishes the challenge. “Ankur had us try a new cookie the other day and the whole office was buzzing,” Brass says. When Ankur revealed that the yummy treat was actually gluten-free, it caused a happy stir among the employees. “We want to have delicious gluten-free products that everyone will enjoy,” says Brass. If you are looking to try some Terra Cotta Food products, and happen to be near Georgetown, Ontario stop by their factory store.


Certification Could Mean Saving Lives

Tracy Bush, Nutrimom®- Food Allergy Liason

Each year, food products are a part of unplanned allergic reactions, hospitalizations and even fatalities due to incorrect labeling and certification. Today’s consumers are on guard in regards to the foods that they buy and many continue to raise concerns about companies that are not showcasing their food certifications. To a company, a certification may seem like just another added expense but to the people purchasing their goods, these are gold stars of approval and an extra precaution in regards to food safety.

Recent statistics found at Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Connection Team (F.A.A.C.T.) shares that “Food allergies affect approximately 15 million Americans, including 6 million children. The prevalence of food allergies appears to be increasing among children under the age of 18- that is 2 students in every classroom.” [1] With so many companies introducing items with new ingredients and wishing to become more allergy-aware, this is a huge percentage of consumers to ensure the safety of.  As daunting as it may seem, knowing how to label properly will begin an awakening of knowledge for the company utilizing it as well as the employees who will be the forefront to those inquiring about specific ingredient facts. Labeling basics can be easily learned and are seen as three basic areas of need: allergens, production and precise information.

  1. Allergens and Gluten The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires that an item containing an ingredient with protein from a major food allergen be visible in the ingredient label. There are eight allergens included in this list, which are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy, but gluten was recently added as well (voluntary, not mandatory). “Any food product bearing a gluten-free claim labeled on or after August 5, 2014 must meet the requirements of the agency’s gluten-free labeling rule. With this uniform definition, consumers with celiac disease can choose foods with greater confidence.” [2]
  2. Production If your facility produces items that include both allergenic and non-allergenic ingredients then this is an extremely important area to be addressed. If the wording on a label is not precise, this will be a reason to make potential customers put your item back on the shelf. Typical concerns include the following:
  • Are the ingredients processed on shared equipment?
  • If shared equipment is being used, what is your procedure to ensure cross-contamination does not occur?
  • What is your company’s method of cleaning and sterilizing the equipment?
  • Are the food items being run at the same time, the same days of the week and/or in the same room or facility?
  • How does your company test for allergy compliance within these products and how often?
  • At what parts per million of undeclared allergens per volume or serving does your company gauge a product safe or unsafe for allergic consumers?
  1. Precise Information A new consumer has the task of trying to remember what your product is and (hopefully) find the time to research it through your company’s website and/or customer service department. Consumers, all consumers not just those with food allergies, appreciate clearly labeled packages. Keep in mind that this is more than just allergenic items; today’s shoppers look at everything from where the ingredients were sourced and processed to which affiliations the product is associated with. Your label is part of what consumers are researching: One typo, one wrong ingredient statement or even the lack of an ingredient can cause an endless flood of concerned people.

For any company to become not only food law-compliant but also to be seen as a producer that strives to display its food allergy safety practices, certification and labeling is one of the must-do’s. Food labels are now part of consumers’ shopping habits. Whether it is for possible allergens or to view any other potential red flags, your company’s label is the first line of information to everyone picking it up. The next step may sound very simple but it’s extremely important- stay true to your word. It takes only one time for an allergy recall to cause another innocent, unnecessary death and a person’s life is and always will be worth so much more than the value of any product. If you or your child has food allergies, would you trust your own companies’ products as safe? Do you feel confident in the way your facility handles the production and concerns of cross-contamination? Are you proud to say that your employees are thoroughly educated on how to avoid coming into contact with allergenic ingredients? If you answered no to any of these questions, I believe you know what your next step is.

Different manufacturers use different symbols. As a result, allergen symbols can sometimes look similar but not necessarily mean the same procedures are in place. Just because a label says “wheat-free” doesn’t mean it’s “gluten-free.” Because of this, wheat-free and gluten-free symbols can look similar. Additionally, products labeled wheat-free may still contain rye- or barley-based ingredients that are not gluten-free. When choosing gluten-free products, it is of the utmost importance to read the label carefully for the words “gluten-free”. Since that’s not always possible, a common facility or foodservice operation should use the following procedures for each allergenic food ingredient:

  • Separate food preparation zones and storage areas
  • Accurately labeled containers that are tightly sealed
  • Separate utensils for food preparation and serving
  • Clean hands, fresh gloves and clothing
  • Controlled airflow that minimizes airborne particles landing on gluten-free food
  • Thorough cleaning between runs or sessions with wet-cleaning systems
  • An allotment of at least 24 hours between regular and gluten-free food preparation to allow flour particles to settle and then be cleaned away which will decrease the chances of cross contamination between products.

As cross-contamination of gluten-free foods can cause severe reactions in those with celiac disease, it’s important to note the most common sources of cross-contact:

  • Shared use of utensils, containers, appliances or baking equipment
  • Airborne particles from wheat, rye, barley or untested oat flour
  • Incomplete cleaning of utensils, equipment or surfaces between runs
  • Contaminated gloves or clothing in gluten-free preparation areas
  • Unsafe or careless food handling by employees or food handlers

Every single company within the food industry has a choice of how it wants to be remembered. The positive news is that we, the allergic consumers (even the ones without food allergies), already know you can do better and that is why we ask so much of you. The organizations that give every ounce of their power to make change happen exist to help companies do the very same thing. Imagine the immense power that would be felt if everyone used this influence together to change – I already can.


What Are Consumers Saying?



Gluten-Free Industry, Consultant & Auditor Online Training Is Now Live!

We are pleased to announce that Gluten-Free Certification Program training for Industry, Consultants and Auditors is now available online! The objective of the course is to provide food industry professionals with the knowledge about the ANAB Accredited Gluten-Free Certification Program Standard, Policies and Procedures that is necessary for a facility to successfully complete a third party audit. The course is based on the auditing methodology documented in ISO 17065 and 17021 and the technical skills necessary to train and implement the GFCP requirements. Understanding how to manage gluten as a chemical hazard and the many hidden sources of gluten throughout the manufacturing process will prepare attendees to assist their facility in attaining gluten-free certification. To learn more or to take the training click here.


Grocery Innovations Canada, SQF, FQMC, PLMA, FMI & WISE.

Grocery Innovations
From L to R: GFCP Customer Partners, A Tasteful Choice Company exhibiting at PLMA; Mika Varelas, Regional Manager Business Development and  GFCP Approved Training Provider Oscar Camacho at the SQF International Conference; ACG visits Ukraine Embassy and hears from Ukraine Minister of Finance about developing trade in the food industry while attending the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Private Brands D.C. Summit; Jessica Burke, Manager Compliance & Technical shows off her new Women Impacting Storebrand Excellence (WISE) membership; ACG participating as part of a round table discussion at the FQMC conference. 


Accelerate new food ideas from “concept to commercialization”


FIRSt food scientists, culinary technicians and industry experts operate in an innovative research space laboratory and test kitchen housed within the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts at George Brown College. Specializing in getting new food products into market and onto store shelves, FIRSt offers food and beverage businesses within the GTA industry access to technical resources, state of the art facilities, and networking opportunities, enabling these companies to grow and reach more customers.

With expertise in Product Development, Customer Insight & Testing and Training & Workshops, FIRSt allows industry to:

  • Access college expertise, technology and equipment to enhance productivity, competitiveness and innovation
  • Take products to market swiftly and cost-effectively
  • Access creative culinary faculty and student talent who get real world, practical training and learning opportunities working on research projects

For more information or to get involved with FIRSt visit