A growing number of posts within the online SCD communities show a photo of a manufactured food product and ask the group "Is this legal?" Unfortunately, there can never be a perfect answer to this question.
Elaine Gottschall, author of the book ‘Breaking The Vicious Cycle left a tremendous body of work, including a comprehensive list of legal/illegal foods. Several of her students, the first generation of SCD users, continued to update and teach the diet basics. Despite all these efforts, there is simply NO WAY to address the SCD legality of every single nature-made food, every kind of bean, vegetable, nut or fruit and herb from around the globe. The same kind of produce grown in two different soils and climates will vary in its nutritional composition. Eggs, dairy, meats and fish also vary in nutritional composition depending upon their environment and their own diet.
When it comes to industrially made or processed foods the picture becomes even fuzzier, and there is simply no authoritative permanently correct answer.
Reading food labels is a good habit, but labels are notoriously incomplete, use deceptive terminology, and avoid the mention of additives and processing agents. Read more about the problems with food labels.
The old requirement that guided people to contact the food manufacturer and request a letter that proves the product is compliant with SCD is superior to relying on labels, but provides only limited assurance. Every food manufacturer is at liberty to change the product formulation at any given moment, and they do so often, to adapt to changes in their own supply chain, prices of raw materials, etc. Essentially, the letter that declares a product as SCD compliant is only good on the day it was signed, and does not guarantee it will remain in effect the next day.
Generally, natural foods are preferred. For example, vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, meats, and some legumes. However, we must remember that even our most natural products are somewhat processed, and yet these are our safest diet options. Vegetables and fruits are spray-coated with thin layers of wax to extend their freshness while shipping, nuts are steamed or sterilized, meat is sprayed with disinfecting solutions, and eggs and dairy are pasteurized. The processing that is done to our ‘natural’ products is keeping us safe from food-borne bacteria, but it may add a layer of burden on our body.
Selectively chosen industrial food products are inevitable. In order to make our diet doable we have no choice but to use some convenience products. Here is where things get tricky, and the discrepancies in how people interpret SCD compliance creates a range of diet variations. What one person describes as strict SCD is not necessarily how another will perceive it. This range of interpretations may be responsible, in part, for the various degrees of diet efficacy.
One must independently read and understand the diet basics. Relying on collective advice from support groups is only helpful as a supplemental data, it cannot replace your own knowledge and judgment.
Best to err on the side of caution. Trust your doubt. If you had to ask, chances are that there is no straight forward, one-size-fits-all, answer about the product in question. If you decide to try it, go slow, try a small amount, and observe for short-term and long-term reactions.
Minimize the number of manufactured products you use. Take extra care especially in the first stages of the diet and during vulnerable times, when there is extra stress in your life and your gut is sensitive.
Tailored diets are the most effective diets. Even legal foods can be harmful when not well tolerated. Individuals are unique, ever-changing, and our diet must adapt to our personal sensitivities. The fact that a food is compliant does not necessarily mean that food is good or safe for you.
The shy person does not learn, and sharing is caring. Keep on asking about products, and keep on sharing new finds. Just remember that ‘nothing is carved in stone’. We are all constant learners.
Be thoughtful, be a good mentor. Consider the terminology you use. When someone asks about a manufactured food item it may be safer to answer with some ambiguity instead of complete assurance. I prefer answers like “we use it without any problems, but we are long time dieters” or “we used it from the get-go, but everyone is different”.
Frustration and uncertainty are a big part of the diet learning-curve, but there is no good way around. Diet, like science, is an evolving process, and we never get all the answers.