A Huntington vegan market has accused a local bakery of providing gluten-tainted goods after finding a doughnut in its delivery that resembled baked goods at Dunkin' that aren't gluten-free. Credit: Newsday

A state food safety department is investigating an allegation that a Long Island vegan bakery supplied a doughnut that was not gluten-free, as promised, in a controversy that has gone viral on social media and attracted national attention.

In a March 4 Instagram post, the vegan specialty grocery cindysnacks in Huntington accused one of its vendors, The Savory Fig, of providing gluten-tainted goods after finding a pink-frosted doughnut within the boxes delivered to the shop. The doughnut featured tiny D-shaped orange and pink sprinkles that bore a suspicious resemblance to the baked goods at Dunkin', which contain dairy and gluten. Cindysnacks co-owner Jonathan Stengel posted a photo of the doughnut in question and a series of text exchanges said to be with Savory Fig owner Michelle Siriani. 

“If these are Dunkin’ Donuts the ingredients could kill somebody as we have so many ppl with severe dairy allergies that shop here,” Stengel wrote.

The doughnut was “definitely not” from Dunkin', replied Siriani, who not only sells to retail shops but at Long Island farmers markets since establishing the vegan and gluten-free bakery in 2020.

Stengel and his partner, Indiana “Cindy” Kay, took it further by purchasing an EZ Gluten home-testing kit and said that the doughnut got a “high positive” result for gluten. Photos of their testing procedure and result are included on the Instagram post.

On Thursday, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, which is tasked with food safety inspections, confirmed that it has received several complaints regarding The Savory Fig, which is registered as a home processing business, and is conducting an investigation.

“Ensuring the safety and proper labeling of our food supply is a critical function of the department, which includes overseeing home processors in New York State,” the agency said in a statement. Home processors, the department said, are exempt from obtaining food processing and retail food store licenses, but are required to register with the state and abide by guidelines, including clearly identifying all allergens in the product statement.

The incident underscores the importance of trust in the relationship between retailers, who rely on the dietary claims of their vendors, and consumers who rely on the retailers for accurate information about what's actually in food products they sell.

Reached by phone Thursday, Siriani said the cindysnacks' post was "untrue" and that the item pictured wasn't hers: "That was not my doughnut."

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