The latest news on GF labeling of food in the United States is that there is no news! It has been FIVE years since the statutory deadline for final rules on gluten-free labeling and the FDA has taken no final action. We have another opportunity to let the government here our opinions on gluten free labeling.
What does this mean to you?
Without federal guidelines defining what "gluten free" means, food manufacturers can define gluten free however they choose as long as it is not "misleading."
Thankfully, some food manufacturers are doing the right thing and setting their own standards of less than 20 ppm and/or being certified gluten free. But without regulation, there are instances of food products being sold with a "gluten-free" labeling that contain gluten or that are exposed to gluten in the manufacturing process to such an extent that they are in reality not gluten free.
Why is happening?
Despite great efforts from the gluten free community, there is no legal definition of "gluten-free" in the United States.
The FDA has failed to meet its legal obligation under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCP) to create and implement final rules for gluten-free food labeling.
- The FALCP charged the FDA to have final standards for gluten-free labeling in place by 2008.
- In 2007, following up on the mandate from FALCP, the FDA issued a proposed rule "Food Labeling: Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods." Under the proposed rule, food could only be marketed as gluten free if it did not contain the following:
(1) an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains;
(2) an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten;
(3) an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten; or
(4) 20 ppm or more gluten. -- "Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods," 72 Fed. Reg. 2795 (proposed January 23, 2007) (to be codified at 21 CFR Part 101).
- The comment period for these rules passed with no action. No final rules were issued by the FDA.
- In 2011, the FDA reopened the comment period on the same proposed regulations for "Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods." That comment period closed and, again, no action was taken. No final rules were issued by the FDA regarding the labeling of gluten-free foods.
- Dec. 14, 2012, the FDA issued a new proposed rule titled "Request for Comments and Information on Initiating a Risk Assessment for Establishing Food Allergen Thresholds; Establishment of a Docket." The purpose of this rule is to find a "quantitative risk assessment for establishing regulatory thresholds for major food allergens." The comment period on these proposed rules is open until Feb. 12, 2013, and an advisory committee meeting of the FDA is scheduled for March 7, 2013 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Time for us to act again!
This issue is so important and I know many of you have taken measures to get this finally resolved. We cannot stop now!
If you want to go to the grocery story and shop for foods labeled gluten free with confidence, then go to the Federal Register and comment on the FDA's latest rule regarding the establishment of gluten thresholds for food.
Docket No. FDA-2012-N-0711
Hit the Comment Now button on the right of the page.
If you read through the regulation they are asking for comments on specific questions. One question we can all answer is:
Which major food allergens are of greatest public health concern and what is the size of the at-risk population?
My answer is gluten is a major food allergen! Specifically, I commented that:
Gluten intolerance is a major food allergen that is a great public health concern. The gluten free community has waited five years for final ruling on gluten free labeling. In the meantime, food manufactures continue to sell food labeled gluten free without any clear standards. As many as 1 out of every 100 persons may have celiac disease, while a far greater percentage of the population is gluten intolerant.
This is our chance to tell the federal government directly how important this labeling law is! Please take a few minutes and comment! If you want an idea what to say, click here to view other comments. Let's get this going!
Please share this information on your Facebook page, Twitter, Tumblr etc!
Tell them we care! The deadline for comments is February 12, midnight ET.