GF Certification – What does GFCO stand for?

On Monday I had my re-audit of my products and facility by my gluten free certifier, the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO). A re-audit is basically a follow up review after already having the initial application and inspection when we originally applied for Gluten Free Certification last year. Of course, in between we have to provide reports on our testing procedures and report new products, ingredients, etc. But yesterday’s visit was about going over our facility with a fine-tooth comb to ensure we’re doing everything right for continued certification.

So what does GF certification mean when you see it on a food product? For GFCO, it means that all Nonuttin products must be testable below 10 parts per million (ppm) and that we follow strict procedures for sourcing our ingredients and packaging materials, testing those ingredients and processing our products along with all of the record keeping that must be accurately maintained. GFCO also inspects all of their facilities.

Because our facility is dedicated to only Nonuttin’ recipes, we are audited with a different checklist. A company that has gluten in the facility plus produces gluten free products will have an additional checklist to go through. GFCO may require test swabs of surfaces to ensure no cross contamination between lines as an example and the company would be expected to keep gluten free ingredients segregated from gluten containing ingredients. Some people are not comfortable with gluten in the same facility and may check with a manufacturer to see whether they have a dedicated facility, even if they see a GF symbol.

The Celiac Sprue Association does have a logo on some products but it is not a certification process including facility inspections but a recognition seal that declares those companies have agreed to follow the criteria set by the association.

The Canadian Celiac Association has begun moving in the direction of GFCO with a certifying program as well but the program is not yet firmly entrenched.

As with all certifications however, companies must still meet the labelling regulations of the country they live in. In our case, Health Canada is still reviewing the gluten free labelling laws for the inclusion of oats. They have been doing so since last May when they published an intent document to change the gluten free labelling to allow for the possibility of pure oats. In the meantime, our US products all have the GFCO logo on them whereas the Canadian products have it only on those items without oats. Our oats products (all granolas and granola bars) indicate a wheat/barley/rye free logo instead.

For more information, check out these links:
GFCO: http://www.gfco.org/about.php
Health Canada Oats Labelling Intent: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/consult/gluten2010/draft-ebauche-eng.php
Celiac Sprue Recognition Seal: http://www.csaceliacs.org/CSASealofRecognition.php
Canadian Celiac Association Certification Program: http://www.celiac.ca/certification.php