To the editor:
Thank you for the well-researched and informative article about eating, enjoying and living life on a gluten-free diet [“A Gluten-Free Primer,” Valley Table 70, June–August 2015]. As you are aware, gluten-free is finally getting its comeuppance.
“A Gluten-Free Primer” points out the number-one problem for those of us who must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet—eating out and cross-contamination in restaurant and bakery kitchens.
Let’s hope many more of your advertisers and readers will realize that being gluten-free doesn’t mean sacrificing taste, but sacrificing careless practices.
—Marisa Frederick, former owner, The Gluten Free Bread Basket, Chester
To the Editor: In the June–August edition of The Valley Table on page 68, the following was written: “Pope Francis has yet to address the sad fact that Catholic communion wafers, too, contain gluten.”
As a Catholic here in the valley, I found this comment out of order. Gluten-free communion wafers are available, as a Eucharist Minister from St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Newburgh, responded in an email when I queried about [your] sentence: “A parishioner at St. Mary’s receives a special gluten-free host.”
A correction or apology is in order. And a note should be made that publications like Science Times and Consumer Reports do not support the gluten-free fad.
—John Reilly, Professor of History Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh
The editor replies:
The writer is correct, Consumer Reports points out that a gluten-free diet has no medical benefits (and, in fact, may be unhealthy) for anyone without celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The exact quote is, “Unless you have celiac disease or a true gluten sensitivity, there’s no clear medical reason to eliminate it [gluten],” a fact that we also state in the article. As for gluten in communion wafers, many parishes around the country currently offer optional communion wafers with gluten content as low as .01 percent, equivalent to about 32 micrograms of gluten in a full host—which is virtually immeasurable and therefore generally interpreted as meaning “gluten-free.” Tests have indicated that the maximum amount of gluten most celiac patients could tolerate in a day without triggering a response is 10 milligrams—about the amount of gluten in a single breadcrumb, and a significantly greater amount than what is contained in a “gluten-free” host. (Long-term tests of gluten ingestion at this level have not been conducted, however.) The Church is quite firm on its requirement that communion wafers must contain a bread component (i.e., wheat) because, scripturally, it was bread that Christ miraculously transformed into his flesh. In 2003, the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterated the 1995 interpretation of Canon Law that “special [gluten-free] hosts are invalid matter,” but “low-gluten hosts are valid matter, provided that they contain the amount of gluten sufficient to obtain the confection of bread.” The decision of whether to permit the use of low-gluten hosts was left to local parishes. In November 2014, the bishops agreed to begin updating the 1995 document with specific consideration for those with celiac disease. So, the answer to the question of whether true gluten-free communion wafers are permitted in celebration of Catholic mass is still no. The use of very-low (.01 percent) gluten wafers (for practical purposes recognized as “gluten-free”) is permitted, though this has not yet been entered into Canon Law.
—Jerry Novesky, Editor