Quinoa, the Gluten-Free Koala
There's often much more to labels than meets the eye. Over the past decade the powers that be have battled over country-of-origin labeling, the meaning of the word "natural," how free chickens must be to carry a free-range label and what we should expect when we see the label "organic," among scads of other concerns.
A current label that's on our brains here at work is "gluten free." I'd wager that most everyone by now has at least one friend or family member who avoids gluten, either due to allergies, Celiac disease or at the suggestion of their naturopath for better digestion. I've sat in on a few meetings where we've discussed how best to label such items at PCC stores so shoppers can find them easily. When I leave my head is spinning with visions of symbols and color coding and different wordings. One big challenge: If we help the gluten-free folks, do we also want to expand these labels with symbols or colors to represent the myriad other special diets our shoppers possess? If we do so, will the number of symbols and colors render the labels impossible to decipher?
While searching the Internet to see how other grocers handle this situation, I happened upon what may be the sweetest image ever associated with Celiac disease:
Quinoa here is part of a team of gluten-free bears named after several gluten-free grains (his buddies are Teff and Buckwheat). They hail from Montrose, NY, where they serve as ambassadors with the Westchester Celiac Sprue Support Group. Aside from being adorable, these bears travel the country (and in Quinoa's case, the globe) to visit gluten-free kids and attend show-and-tell as a way to start a conversation with classmates about food allergies.
Not sure if traveling bears are in our future, but it's good to learn about new ways of spreading awareness.