An Ottawa company that manufactures gluten-free products is suing its Scarborough, Ont., supplier after discovering traces of the protein in its ingredients. Judy's Magic Mixes manufactures gluten-free baking and cooking mixes for people who have Celiac disease. Sufferers cannot consume gluten — a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye — because it triggers an autoimmune reaction, damaging their small intestine and reducing their ability to absorb nutrients. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, one in every 133 Canadians suffers from the disease. Peter Kokkovas, president of Judy's Magic Mixes, said he tested some supposedly gluten-free chickpea flour supplied by Grain Process Enterprises Ltd. for the protein. The test found 64 parts per million of gluten. "I can't tell you how much of a chill that sent up my back," said Kokkovas.
Kokkovas issued a massive product recall, but also contacted Grain Process Enterprises Ltd with his concerns. Not satisfied with the company's response, Kokkovas is now suing for breach of contract. "They seem to want to hide their heads in the sand, as if that's going to make the problem go away." Kokkovas has invoices dating back to January, 2009 showing his specific orders of gluten-free flour. But George Birinyi Jr., vice-president of Grain Process Enterprises, Ltd. said his company would never have guaranteed the products as gluten-free. "We don't even use that word here. "
Birinyi Jr. said his company stopped advertising gluten-free products years ago, after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency introduced strict labelling rules. According to the CFIA website, a food cannot be "labelled, packaged, sold or advertised in a manner likely to create an impression that it is 'gluten-free' unless it does not contain wheat, including spelt and kamut, or oats, barley, rye, triticale or any part thereof." Birinyi Jr. said his company does make rice and chickpea flours, which are usually considered gluten-free products, but it can't label them as such because his company uses the same machinery to mill wheat flour. Nevertheless, Grain Process Enterprises is listed as a gluten-free distributor on several websites.