STILLWATER, Minn. – Cub Foods, part of the Supervalu family of grocery stores, is offering gluten-intolerant customers an informative diet management program at its stores in Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin. Developed by Supervalu’s Health and Wellness team, including registered dietitians, the new gluten-free program will roll out in phases over the next three months.

Supervalu’s family of stores — Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher’s, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s/Star Market and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy — will provide signage and special merchandising sets in select stores to help make it easier for customers to find gluten-free products. Customers can also visit the customer service department to pick up an in-store shopping list/guide to gluten-free products as well as get their gluten-related questions answered. More extensive gluten-free shopping lists as well as recipes and snack and meal solutions will be available on the stores’ web sites.

“For people suffering from gluten intolerance, eating foods with gluten causes inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine, which can result in nutrients passing through the body without being absorbed,” said Anthony Provenzano, Supervalu pharmacy director of clinical programs. “This may contribute to other health concerns, including: malnutrition, some types of cancers and a variety of autoimmune diseases. As a whole, the US population is seeing an uptick in gluten intolerance, and there are many more people who have it — but don’t know it. This program is designed to help people manage a gluten-free diet and hopefully encourage others to seek advice from a health care professional about a possible sensitivity to gluten.”

Three million Americans currently suffer from the inherited celiac disease, and 97% of Celiacs go undiagnosed or are initially given an incorrect diagnosis, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. There is also no pharmaceutical cure for the disease. A 100% gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment. About 500,000 celiac diagnoses are expected to occur over the next five years, the foundation predicts.

Gluten-free foods don’t have to be special or specially made, although some are. Natural examples of gluten-free foods include fruits, vegetables, beef, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs, amaranth, corn, rice, millet, flax, lentils, potato and soy. Most grocery stores have many of these items on hand, but the challenge for customers is knowing which products are gluten-free, where to find them and what can be made with them.

“A program like Cub Foods’ is extremely helpful in two ways: it provides valuable information and resources to people who rely on finding gluten-free foods for their diet and it also helps educate the general population about gluten sensitivity issues and needs,” said Mary Schluckebier, executive director, Celiac Sprue Association.

“This program, along with our nutrition iQ program, which features easy-to-see, color-coded shelf tags to help consumers quickly identify healthier food choices, will help to provide our gluten-free customers the shopping ease and convenience they deserve,” Provenzano said.