Follow the Gluten-Free Bread Crumbs

For the past 21 years I’ve ground every bread crumb used in gluten-free recipes for my daughter.

The two of us just made another batch, breaking what I call the “ends “of the breadgluten-free bread crumbs (here in Baltimore they’re called the “heels”) into pieces and feeding them into the food processor. Since we dry the bread out first, it’s a workout for my sturdy Cuisinart. The motor heats up, and the tiniest crumbs escape in a fine spray that dusts the counter top.

I couldn’t begin to count how many pieces of gluten-free bread I’ve re-purposed this way. In the beginning it was a necessity. There was no such thing as store-bought gluten-free bread crumbs when my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease as a toddler. That remained true through her childhood, though specialty gluten-free brands started to appear in the last few years.

But I was surprised to find a mainstream brand, 4C, is now making two varieties ofbread crumbs 2 gluten-free crumbs, plain and seasoned – just like their wheat-containing version. They’re made with rice flour on a dedicated gluten-free line in a building separate from the one where the gluten-containing crumbs are made. They’re certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization run by the Gluten Intolerance Group.

As Celiac Awareness month kicks off today, I’m following the bread crumbs as a way to measure how far we travel in the gluten-free world from May to May.

Will my daughter and I stop making our own bread crumbs? It’s unlikely as long as there are some unused ends available. But it’s nice to have a readily available choice, especially when our homemade supply has run out.

I’m celebrating the growing number of choices available to people with celiac disease during this month of awareness. You’ll find lots of choices for many gluten-free products in your supermarket, wholesale club, health food and discount department stores.

Even more exciting, choices about how to manage celiac disease are on the horizon.

In few Mays you’ll probably be able to decide whether you want to take a pill to supplement the gluten-free diet. Most drugs in the works would help reduce intestinal damage and consequent symptoms from exposure to cross-contamination, when you eat out in a restaurant for example.  They would also help people who continue to have symptoms even on the gluten-free diet.

No one says you would have to take a pill, but you would have a choice once one  makes it out of clinical trials and onto the pharmacy shelf.

Growing awareness promoted by celiac disease support groups and their many local chapters, by gluten-free companies, bloggers, consumers, medical professionals and magazines like Gluten-Free Living is making more options available.

I realize there’s been so much change in availability that for  growing percentage of people on the gluten-free diet the days of no ready-made gluten-free bread, bread crumbs, rolls, bagels, pizza, pretzels, soup, burritos and more are just a story they hear from old timers.

That’s progress and that’s what this month is all about.