1 in 133 – Time for Gluten-Free Labeling Laws

One more post to wrap up Celiac Awareness Month.

Photo by Charles Votaw

Earlier this month – Jules Dowler Shepard built a 16-tier gluten-free cake at a hotel in Washington, D.C. in an effort to raise awareness about Celiac Disease and the need for gluten-free labeling laws. Laws that would help the 1 in 133 persons with the disease (not to mention those with gluten intolerance or friends and family members trying to find gluten free foods for their loved ones).

You’ve seen labeling for allergens on many packages – noting whether items contain peanuts, tree nuts, soy, milk, eggs, and wheat.  However, merely labeling a product as having wheat leaves out many ingredients dangerous to those with Celiac including spelt, kamut, rye, barley, semolina, malt and others.

Without a labeling law, food manufacturers can claim “gluten-free” on product labels without appropriately informing consumers if a product is truly free of all potentially harmful ingredients.   A gluten-free label would be issued under an established definition of “gluten-free” to help those who have Celiac Disease easily identify packaged foods that are safe for them to eat.

Though the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) tasked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize standards for gluten-free labeling by 2008, the FDA has yet to fulfill this mandate. Thus, those with Celiac Disease are left to carefully scrutinize labels to search for unsafe ingredients and cannot be sure if products not specifically labelled will cause severe and lasting effects.

To be fair, the FDA has proposed rules on what a gluten-free labeling law might mean:

Defining the term “gluten-free” to mean that a food bearing this claim in its labeling does not contain any one of the following:

  • An ingredient that is a prohibited grain
  • An ingredient that is derived from a prohibited grain and that has not been processed to remove gluten
  • An ingredient that is derived from a prohibited grain and that has been processed to remove gluten, if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food or
  • 20 ppm or more gluten (this level because according to published scientific research, current analytic technology can reliably and consistently detect gluten in food at levels of 20 ppm and considered a “safe” level of gluten exposure).

Still the labels would be voluntary.  Yet with the popularity of products known as gluten free and knowing that so many need to know this information, perhaps companies will take it upon themselves to change their labeling.  Here’s hoping.

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2 Responses to 1 in 133 – Time for Gluten-Free Labeling Laws

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