As this issue of the magazine goes to press, the FDA is reopening its public comment period on gluten-free labeling standards. This means that we can all weigh in on the importance of having a national standard for use of the term “gluten free” on food products.
Believe me, folks—this is important.
When it comes to gluten-free products, there are currently no federal government standards, no regulations and no enforcement. U.S. food manufacturers can slap “gluten free” on their products without taking any steps to ensure the ingredients they use are not cross contaminated with harmful levels of gluten.
Thank goodness for the responsible companies that take gluten-free claims seriously and stand behind the safety of their products. But there are too many manufacturers that state their products are gluten free despite the risk of cross contamination in their facilities and production practices. To address this, the FDA proposes that the term “gluten free” be used only on food products that contain less than 20 ppm (parts per million) gluten.
This <20 ppm requirement is a standard that’s currently used in Italy, England and 25 other countries in the European Union. Research conducted by celiac expert Alessio Fasano, MD, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research, has determined this standard to be safe for those with celiac disease.
Back in May, food editor Beth Hillson and I, along with others from the gluten-free community, were on Capitol Hill, asking Congress to get FDA to move on establishing gluten-free labeling standards. (The evening culminated in the unveiling of the world’s tallest gluten-free cake.) For me, the most gratifying aspect of this eventful day was to see the gluten-free community—a diverse crowd from medical and research facilities, advocacy organizations, manufacturing, as well as grassroots consumers—speak with one unified voice. Our message—that we need standards for gluten-free labeling—was heard.
With the FDA reopening its comment period (it closes October 3), it’s time to speak again. We want gluten-free consumers around the country to have access to truthful, accurate information on ingredient labels. That’s why I encourage you to submit your comments to the FDA. To comment online, go to www.regulations.gov, choose “Submit a Comment” from the top task bar, enter FDA-2005-N-0404 in the “Keyword” space and select “Search.”