We're Paleo, right? So why the heck would we make our products anywhere near gluten, grain, or dairy?
The short version is that it's a federal requirement to include that message based on the bakery we use.
The slightly longer version is that we're certified gluten free down to 20 parts per million or less (explained in depth here), and that we've made over a million Treats since 2009 with zero reported "glutened" incidents.
Here's the ultra long version plus background. Yeah, for you serious readers.
It's a good question, and answering it in full offers an inside look at how the whole prepared food gig actually works. You see, you've got a few choices when, like us, you want to start a food company and stick to the rules that you think are "right" (no gluten, no grain, no dairy. Totally Paleo.)
First, you can make everything at home. It's a good place to test recipes, and it's cheap to start with, but that's about it. It's not a good place to efficiently make a lot of food that all meets a high quality standard; there are phones to answer, Facebook to distract you, dogs running around underfoot, children demanding attention and the usual gentle caucaphony of domestic life to deal with. Still, lots of small businesses start at home, and that's OK, you've just got to figure out where and how you're going to make your product when you actually have more than just your friends & family buying it.
This brings us to the second method: You can rent time in a commercial kitchen. This is much safer, cleaner, and more efficient than making food at home, but if you rent time in a kitchen you're limited to that time; when it's over it's over, and if you still need 20 minutes to package everything you could blow all the profit (and life) out of your business. It also means that you're limited to those folks who can meet the irregular schedule of a start up. You may need just you and one other person one week, then get swamped with orders the next and need 6 people to help. 6 people who know what they're doing in a commercial kitchen and have a completely open schedule can be hard to find on a Thursday night.
Third, you can do what we do, and contract out a bakery. They have all the staff, the certifications, the know how, and the time to do exactly what you want. We've been working with the same bakery for almost as long as we've been in business, and they know exactly how to make each one of our paleo desserts the way we want it done. They understand and appreciate our obsession not just with quality, but adherence to a fairly strict Paleo diet; after all, we haven't fallen for the stevia or coconut sugar trick yet. :)
The drawback to this is you share the bakery space with other companies, and they have different ingredients they like to use. Most of the time that's not a problem, but when you're dealing with specialty foods like we do, where people are much more aware of their food intolerances, you have to be careful to be very clear with the bakers regarding not just what to use, but how to prepare it and avoid cross contamination. We take being Paleo very seriously, and have gone the extra mile to actually become certified gluten free (NOT cheap or easy).
Still, there are a few people out there who are extraordinarily sensitive to certain foods, so we (and the US Gov't) think it's appropriate to warn them of the dangers they may face. Now, in selling over a million treats since 2009, we have NEVER had any complaints from any customer regarding any kind of reaction to our paleo cookies or bars, so it seems like what we're doing is working.
Finally, if you had a lot of money you could build your own facility from the ground up that never processed any allergenic foods. You'd have to be able to not only fund it, but also run it profitably once it was up and running.
If baker's ain't bakin they ain't money makin', and as crass as it sounds, you need money to run a business. While the allergy sensitive food movement is growing, I'm not sure it's ready yet to support a commercial facility that can crank out the kind of volume you need to be profitable.
Building an allergy free baking facility is probably a good business for a forward thinking group to fund and start up, and if we see one pop up in San Diego that can offer the same level of service and quality and pricing as the bakery we currently use we'd certainly explore the idea of switching over.
Ok, that about covers all the ways I can think of. Hopefully all this flashes through your head word for word when you wonder about a label saying "Manufactured in a facility that produces products that contain wheat, soy, eggs, milk, peanuts and tree nuts". Now you know!
Nik & The PT Crew