Linda Wiebel was sick and no one could figure out what was wrong.
The Bloomsburg native had undergone tests for various ailments, even leukemia, and at one point thought she’d have to have her gall bladder removed, she said. Her diet was what eventually proved the problem.
“I just found out five months ago that I have an allergy to gluten,” Wiebel said.
That allergy is what brought Wiebel to The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel for the second Central Pennsylvania Gluten Free Expo on Sunday. A line had formed outside the event a half-hour before it began and Wiebel and her daughter were at the front.
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About 45 vendors signed on for this year’s event, coordinator Matt Bolich said, most of them food related. National, regional and local companies were represented and many had free samples as well as products available for sale.
Good Seed Baking Co. in State College offered samples of cookies and muffins at the expo and sold bread mixes and baked goods. The business, which opened in May, only produces gluten-free products, co-owner Laura Young said. The company is also taking orders for gluten-free bread and pies for the holidays, she said.
Maggi White, of State College, sampled some of the items at the Good Seed display and bought a bag of gluten-free stuffing for Thanksgiving. Her daughter, Julie Baun, of DuBois, is allergic to gluten.
“I’m getting a gluten-free part of my kitchen so I can make things for her when she visits,” White said.
Family members with gluten disorders brought others out. Emily Mummolo traveled from Hamburg to the event. Her daughter, Celeste, 4, has celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where ingestion of gluten causes an immune reaction that damages the small intestine.
“It’s nice to come out and see what’s new and what’s out there,” Mummolo said.
Other vendors displayed items like gluten, allergen and animal product-free soaps and lotions. Some offered services and information. The State College Celiac Support Group had a table set up with cookbooks, information about managing the disease and services it offers. The group has meetings and events where members discuss gluten-free living and learn about what’s available locally, said Karen Giornesto, who worked the table.
Besides vendors, speakers were a part of the expo, including presentations and speakers on gluten-free baking and gluten disorders.
The addition of a children’s activity area was a difference from last year, Bolich said. Some playthings, like paint and Play-Doh, contain gluten or other allergens. Kids could play with items free of both at the expo.
As for Wiebel, she said she feels much better after eliminating it from her diet. The food isn’t quite the same and is a bit more expensive, she said, but she doesn’t mind.
“I’d rather eat something that tastes a little different and be healthy,” she said.