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Sunday, January 4, 2009
Gluten-Free "Play Doh"

Did you know that Hasbro's Play-Doh is made with wheat? Well, now there is a gluten-free alternative called Soy-Doh. It is a gluten-free, non-toxic, and non-allergenic alternative to the children's toy.

As seen in the New York Times on December 24, 2008.


Gluten-Free Child’s Play
By KATE ZERNIKE

Like so much about college, it started with beer. Not drinking it; making it. A professor at Purdue University mentioned that she couldn’t drink beer because of intolerance to wheat gluten. So Sawyer Sparks and two other students in the agricultural economics program there started experimenting in their off-hours to see if they could make a gluten-free beer. They borrowed beer-making supplies from a neighbor who had made it something of a hobby, and mixed soy flour, gluten-free yeast and water on Mr. Sparks’s stove.

The result didn’t look anything like beer. “It looks like Play-Doh!” one of them said. But Play-Doh, that squishy staple of preschool years, can be a problem for children who are intolerant to wheat. (Hasbro, Play-Doh’s manufacturer, won’t say exactly what is in it but does say that it contains wheat and can cause a reaction in allergic children.)

Mr. Sparks, 21 and a junior, had already started a small company that markets alternative fuels and animal feed made from sunflowers around southern Indiana. He saw another business opportunity in the stove-top creation. Some estimates put the number of people intolerant to wheat at one in six. “It’s a big thing for parents,” he says.

Mr. Sparks decided to sell his mixture as a wheat-free alternative to Play-Doh, calling it Soy-Doh. He created a dozen colors, and scented each to smell like fruit or foods — one is root beer. It is nontoxic and nonallergenic. Mr. Sparks says you can eat it (and he has). He says he has sold hundreds of containers to schools, at $2 a pop.

It is essentially the same mixture he discovered in his beer-making venture (since abandoned), only now, for economy, it includes some rice flour as well as soy. But he is still producing it from his house.

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