October 30, 2013

CCA Certification

At the beginning of June I attended the CCA conference in Mississauga. This is an occasion to hear speakers talking about ongoings or new research, not just on celiac disease itself, but links to it – the emotional toll, new products, other health issues – plus you get to venture through a gf marketplace where you can find so many gf products and services that can benefit those with gluten issues; food and otherwise.

For myself, the conference began with a summary of the CCAcertification. Did you know there are currently over 175 products with the CCA gf trademark? I had no idea! In this presentation (by Paul Valder) I learnt about the background and the whys of the certification program (some seemed obvious, but some big gf companies are hesitant), and how it’s growing. There were some interesting pieces of information too – 9 million Canadians are eating gluten-free, but only 1% are celiacs. The rest avoid gluten due to digestive issues, nutritional value, and weight loss (The last one reminded me of my vegetarian days and hearing from people that they were going veggie to lose some weight; Give me a break!).

It was very reassuring to learn that this label isn’t handed out all willy-nilly, which seems to occur in the U.S. (You may recall the Dominoes gf pizza crust that wasn’t suitable for celiacs and quickly had their gf logo pulled) and who also seem to have a half dozen or so ‘gluten-free’ logos for packaging (Note: The U.S has now implemented a gf label which standards are similar to Canada’s). Here the CCA’s standards are set higher than Health Canada’s. Also a third party of trained auditors visit the specific company and where its products come from so all angles are covered (scrutinized, analyzed, tested, etc,etc). 

There are a few reasons for the certification: to help create trust and brand loyalty; to prevent logo and certification brand confusion; help capture a market; and companies gain access to more customers by being seen on the CCA and certification website. In the end it comes down to consumers having confidence in products they may not have had before. 

Auditing these companies for certification isn’t limited to facilities in Canada. Auditors travel around the world following the supply/manufacturing chain, travelling to places like Sweden, India, Italy, and China to make sure the product and ingredients are truly gf in every aspect. 

Certification doesn’t come cheap and so companies that apply for and obtain the CCA certification are serious and committed. The application itself costs $500, then the annual program license fee costs $1000-20,000, then the costs of audits run between $1000-3000 per facility, then any consulting fees on top of all that. It can be pricey, so it wouldn’t make sense for a company that isn’t serious about their gf product to obtain it merely for the CCA label.

For myself, I’ve been on the lookout for those CCA certification labels since. It has opened up a few options and I’ve tried a few that I was hesitant about buying before. One more result I found in looking for this logo: It’s one less label I have to read for any gluten content.


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