Whole Foods Market Opens First Gluten-Free Bakehouse

RALEIGH, N.C. - Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market, known for its selection of organics and other healthy fare, yesterday announced the opening of the Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Bakehouse, the company's first dedicated gluten-free baking facility.

The 8,000-square-foot facility, which is located in the Raleigh, N.C., suburb of Morrisville, produces 27 baked goods designed to meet the needs of the increasing number of customers whose diets require gluten-free foods.

The product lineup -- including breads, cookies, scones, biscuits, pizza crusts, whole pies, and brownies -- is now available at the five North Carolina Whole Foods Market stores in Cary, Raleigh, Durham, Winston-Salem, and Chapel Hill. Distribution also includes Atlanta's three Whole Foods Market and three Harry's Farmers Market stores, and the South Carolina store in the Charleston suburb Mt. Pleasant. Expanded availability for stores in Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, south and west New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., is expected by November, the company said in a statement.

Whole Foods cited a study by the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore, which found that approximately one in 133 Americans may have celiac disease, but not all who have the condition show symptoms until they experience a significant life event such as surgery, viral infection, childbirth, or severe emotional stress. Celiac disease is hereditary but treatable by eliminating all gluten from the diet, a lifetime requirement for most people with this condition.

A gluten-free diet is medically necessary for individuals diagnosed with celiac disease, also known as celiac, nontropical sprue, celiac sprue, gluten intolerant enteropathy, or gluten sensitive enteropathy. The disease causes a physical reaction to certain protein chains -- or glutens -- which are found in some common grains such as wheat, rye and barley. The reaction leads to changes in the small intestine, which prevents absorption of nutrients from food.

Lee Tobin, a longtime Chapel Hill, N.C. Whole Foods Market team member who suffers from celiac disease, developed the idea for the bakehouse after years of perfecting gluten-free recipes. "As someone with celiac disease, the opening of the Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Bakehouse is truly a dream come true that ultimately makes life easier and better for our customers," said Tobin.

In addition to the baked items now available from the Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Bakehouse, Whole Foods Market offers a wide range of gluten-free products from several manufacturers.
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