Via Food Safety News
Though given a mandate to figure the regulation out more than four years ago, the FDA has still not given guidelines for what constitutes ‘Gluten-Free’ for food packaging, leaving manufacturers in charge of package labeling.
In a letter late last month, U.S. Senators Ron Leahy (D-VT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have demanded that the FDA establish universal requirements for Gluten-Free labeling.
“The regulatory uncertainty surrounding FDA’s inaction has led to a proliferation of “gluten free” standards and labels provided by 3rd party groups,”
says the letter.
“This creates confusion for consumers, and hesitancy amongst producers on what their requirements will be.”
Gluten is a protein most commonly found in wheat, barley and rye. In people with celiac disease, it creates an immune reaction in the small intestine, which damages the organ and renders it unable to absorb important nutrients, leading to malnourishment and sometimes causing damage to the brain, nervous system, bones and vital organs. There is no treatment for the disease, but cutting gluten out of one’s diet can eliminate the symptoms.
“For sufferers of Celiac disease – a painful disorder stemming from the inability to properly digest the gluten found in breads – having accurate and standard labeling for these products is essential,” said Wyden’s office in a news release
According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, Celiac disease affects 1 in 133 people, or 1 percent of the health population, meaning that almost 3 million Americans suffer from celiac disease. However, 97 percent go undiagnosed.
Due to an increased awareness of the disease in the medical community, its diagnosis rate has risen steadily in the past few years.
The Senators also requested that Margaret Hamburg, FDA commissioner, explain the agency’s delay in setting a limit for gluten in gluten-free foods.
“We ask that you provide us with an update on when FDA will promulgate a final rule, why FDA has taken so long to issue this rule, and if there are any legal or regulatory hurdles that have prevented the timely implementation of this legislation” the authors write.
Thanks, Senator Wyden!
It looks like the Senators’ actions were impactful, and the FDA’s website now has a call for comments on gluten-free labeling.
Get in touch and share your thoughts on official labeling!
We are eager to hear what the official regulations will be, and am glad that there is finally some action on this front.