Saturday, April 17, 2010

Red lentil saga, part 3

**Update 4/16**

My response from Bob's Red Mill marketing director, Matt Cox:

Dear Anne,

Regarding this problem with grains in the lentils, I hope you know how sorry we are for the experience you had with our product. We pride ourselves with our very high standards for purity but this one just slipped through our fingers.

We’ve done some serious sleuthing to find the root cause of these stowaway grains in our lentils and here’s what we found. The farmer that grows our lentils, rotates his crops every third year with wheat, which is what we determined to be the sort of grains you sent for our inspection. No matter how meticulous the farmer may be in purging the field of wheat at harvest, some errant seeds invariably remain. During the following year when lentils are planted, a few sprouts of wheat pop up along with the lentils. They all get harvested, dried and cleaned together. Screens are used to purify the lentils from sticks and rocks from the farm but wheat is so similar in size to lentils, they both end up in the final product.

With the root cause discovered, you’ll be happy know that the farmer has installed an additional piece of quality control equipment that ensure that customers only receive lentils in their bag. The high tech machine is a color sorting device that uses an electronic eye to detect variations in color. The machine is calibrated to allow only the hue of lentils, so anything lighter or darker—like wheat—gets blown off the conveyor with a sharp blast of air.

There may be a few remaining bags on store shelves that have here-and-there kernels of wheat, but once those are gone you’ll see consistently clean and pure lentils. Thank you so much fur alerting us to this. We wouldn’t have had such valuable insight without you. If you have any additional questions or concerns, I would be pleased to help you.


Matthew Cox

Marketing Director

Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, Inc.

Thoughts? I am extremely pleased that they took this matter seriously. I never would have guessed those mystery grains were actually wheat! I did have a feeling it must have come from the harvesting side of it.

Will you trust this machinery that can be alerted and then discard the non-lentil grain?


I have been looking at pictures of barley all day, and now I am thinking it could also be oat groats. Even if it is oat groats, the possibility of a glutening is still the same. I just wanted to clarify, that it may be this. Hope we will get the answers soon.


Thankfully Bob's Red Mill saw my post on Twitter and the VP of Operations contacted me and seemed very concerned. I am definitely impressed by their quick action.

I am sending them the barley grains I picked out of the replacement bag that was sent to me back in February. Let me tell you, it was no fun to go through it, but with a quick inspection, I picked out 14 grains.

As I mentioned below, when I was at the store the other day, just for fun, I looked at all of the red lentil packages, and could see barley throughout.

Now, if these do not look like barley, please let me know before I make a complete idiot of myself:

I will keep you updated as I receive any information. Wouldn't it be great if they could produce their beans and lentils in their gluten-free facility, so we could know they were 100% safe.


I know, I know...I can't stop talking about the barley I found in Bob's Red Mill red lentils here and here. I am sure I sound like a broken record and everyone reading this is rolling their eyes at me, and I truly do admire Bob's Red Mill and all they have done for the gluten-free community, especially their recent introduction of gluten-free oat flour. And yes, I realize that their beans are not labeled gluten-free, but I think a lot of celiacs would take it for granted that they are gluten-free, but their red lentils are not. And I am just not willing to take the chance by picking out the barley bits.

While I was at my local grocery store today, I decided to look through all the packages of BRM red lentils I could find, and every single one of them had visible barley in it. I have not noticed the same with their other beans, but I am surely staying away from the red lentils.

I wish Bob's Red Mill would make gluten-free beans to go along with the rest of their impressive line of gluten-free products, but until then, I will have to purchase beans from Arrowhead Mills, who list their beans as gluten-free.

Maybe if enough people ask for them to make gluten-free beans we can make an influence.


  1. I have never purchased beans or lentils from BRM, but do buy their GF products. I have been very cautious since you first posted about the barley in your lentils. I have a friend, also celiac, who has had the same issue with the 365 Brand and BRM.


  2. Kim,

    It is a shame that we can't feel safe with dried beans, especially since it is a great source of fiber to make up for what we are loosing with whole grains.

  3. That is a great response! I'm impressed that they took the time to figure out what happened rather than just saying "Sorry, this stuff happens sometimes".

  4. I just "googled" red lentils/ gluten free because I have been finding quite a few grains of barley in the red lentils from the bulk bin. I have been using these red lentils for years and have just been finding the grains the past year or so. They have a lot of Bob's packaged and bulk products at the natural food store where I shop, but I don't know if the bulk is Bob's or not. Bob's Red Mill is quite good and I know them to be conscientious. I am glad to hear the explanation about how the grains get into lentils - I was wondering. I, too, love these lentils and don't know yet if I should keep eating them. I hope I pick out all the grains but there is the contamination issue...