Update: A day after I posted this piece, I heard from the culinary development representative again. Her news is good for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The DFW Steel City Pop locations use chocolate from Unrefined Bakery, a 100% gluten-free establishment that is owned by a mother/daughter team who have Celiac. However, locations in Houston, Alabama, and Kentucky are still at risk due to the use of Ghirardelli cocoa powder in some of their products.
I posted a statement to Facebook yesterday about my disappointment in Steel City Pops because of their refusal to deal with ingredients that might contain gluten while still advertising their food as gluten-free. I stand by my concern, but I wanted to add a bit to that since hearing from their culinary development representative this morning. Here's the breakdown:
Their representative from Ghirardelli is giving them a completely different story than the person I was in contact with. Here's the statement I received from Ghirardelli about an ingredient Steel City Pops uses:
At this time our products
are not certified as being gluten free, the FDA requires products to be
tested to confirm that gluten level is below 20ppm. Currently
Ghirardelli products are not tested to this requirement and therefore we
cannot make any gluten free claims for our products, production lines
or manufacturing facilities. If a Ghirardelli product contains gluten it
will be noted in the ingredients.
What this means is that Gharardelli does not require that their products meet the lowest possible standard for a gluten-free designation. Thankfully, after years of being considered an enemy to the Celiac community due to their lack of transparency, they are finally giving a straight answer and saying they just aren't taking the extra step to guarantee anything. I can at least respect the honesty.
However, Steel City Pops' Ghirardelli representative tells a different story and says the company is on the verge of being certified gluten-free, they just don't want to pay for the designation. Given the company's past and my exchange with a Ghirardelli rep. yesterday, I don't believe it.
Steel City Pops is looking to change to a company who provides certified gluten-free, organic cocoa powder, but they haven't yet and I don't know when they will. For us, that means this dessert destination is out.
All this to say I can't recommend this place to those with severe gluten-intolerance or Celiac, but I do commend the company for taking my concerns seriously and sending my emails up the chain of command until I was able to have an exchange with someone who seemed to moderately understand why I was concerned. That is something, and I will take it.
I also want to warn the Celiac community that I believe issues like this are going to become more prevalent for a couple of reasons: number one, we're trending. To eat gluten-free now is to be the cool kid at the lunch table, but that means many restaurants and manufacturers are cashing in as opposed to actually checking out how to help those who actually need this diet to live.
Number two, governmental standards are going down the tube. This is not completely new since the last administration seemed to owe a large portion of their souls to Monsanto, but I fear in this current climate where making money is the primary consideration for those in office, things are going to get very hard for those of us who need to verify ingredients in food or medication.
To survive, research and question more than ever. Eat at home when you can. Eat whole foods that are less in question. Eat certified GF. Be careful.