Via Celiac.com By Jennifer Iscol
On May 4th, members of the national celiac and gluten intolerance community met in Washington, D.C., to urge the Food and Drug Administration to finalize gluten-free labeling rules. The event was very successful and I wanted to share a bit more about it.
The May 4th event was led by a broad-based coalition, including nonprofit organizations, celiac disease centers and gluten-free food manufacturers. Jules Shepard, a gluten-free cookbook author and baker, and John Forberger, a gluten-free athlete and blogger, met through Twitter, came up with the idea for the event and created the website www.1in133.org.
Andrea Levario, Executive Director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA), crafted the successful political strategy in conjunction with ACDA President Beth Hillson, who is also food editor of Living Without magazine. ACDA has been a key proponent of gluten- free food labeling since 2003. For this event, I represented the Celiac Disease Foundation, a founding member of ACDA and North Bay Celiacs’ national affiliate, as their national liaison. Here’s part of our group, walking the halls of Congress:
Members of the coalition spent the day visiting members of Congress, who were very receptive. Betty McCollum of Minnesota and Nita Lowey of New York, are particularly committed to tracking FDA’s progress and seeing this through. They both attended the evening reception at the Embassy Suites Washington D.C.
Just a few of the many others present that evening and supporting the event: Dr. Alessio Fasano of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research; the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center; King Arthur Flour Company; Nu-World Amaranth; Glutino/Gluten-Free Pantry; Gluten Intolerance Group; National Foundation for Celiac Awareness; Lee Tobin of Whole Foods Gluten-Free Bakehouse; and support groups from around the region.
Something that week also triggered a response by the FDA. Was it the Washington Post article critical of the FDA’s delay, 5,000 letters to the FDA by members of the public, or perhaps the 11 foot gluten-free cake at the evening reception? Mike Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, attended the reception and seemed impressed that the coalition is so broad-based and includes the gluten-free food industry.
Here’s a picture from the reception: From the left, FDA Deputy Commissioner Mike Taylor, Living Without magazine editor Alicia Woodward, Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN), American Celiac Disease Alliance executive director Andrea Levario.
“I want people to understand that the FDA gets it. We’re on this. We’ll get this moving,”
Deputy Commissioner Taylor spoke before the assembled crowd in the hotel lobby and promised to get the job done. “I want people to understand that the FDA gets it. We’re on this. We’ll get this moving,” he announced. He said the long-awaited Safety Assessment to determine a safe level for gluten in food would be out within a few weeks, open for a public comment period, and then the final rule would follow.
Let’s see, that was exactly three weeks ago today…FDA, we are watching and waiting.
Stay tuned for more details.