Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Gluten-Free Labeling FDA Update


GOOD NEWS vs BAD NEWS

Last week we heard news from the FDA that they're finally regulating food packaging for voluntary use of "gluten-free" labeling whether made in USA or imported into the USA for a mandate of <20ppm. This is a heavy topic so let's analyze it together to get a better understanding of what this means now and tomorrow for gluten-free consumers.


The Bad
It will take up to a year for this change to go in effect. Why? It's only fair to allow small or large brands to revise their labels, pack and ship which will cost them time and money. However, it's a bummer for us who need to wait this long for a change that should've been regulated years ago.

The Good
If you have Celiac Disease, like myself, you've been neglected during this massive surge of gluten-free products over the past 15 years because you never knew what to trust until this new FDA update. Why? Gluten-free labeling was completely out of control without any regulations. Anyone could slap a label on a product and get it's way into a grocery or sell online sadly.  Let's be happy now that the FDA has helped Celiac Disease consumers come one step closer to trusting manufacturers throughout the entire food, beverage and restaurant industry, but we're also not there yet...

Bad Bad
Previously "gluten-free" food package labeling wasn't regulated. If you shopped in a grocery or online seeing a gluten-free certification" then it was okay as these were third party approved for either <20ppm, <10 ppm or <5ppm. However, most products have some random "gluten-free" typeface or non approved logo which holds no accountability whatsoever and likely could result in a Celiac or gluten intolerance consumer getting ill.

More Bad
FDA does not and cannot restrict products from utilizing "gluten-free" in their marketing website communication, advertising, or via spoken word everyday. Street slang for "gluten-"free" is still all crazy mixed up and most don't even know what Celiac Disease is, an auto-immune disease that causes havoc to itself when gluten is digested in the body. Therefore, as a strict gluten-free consumer (which everyone should be and/or at least take it as serious as the next person) be wary of what you read and hear but be sure they have tested for <20 ppm properly or don't eat it.

Even More Bad
There is no regulation in restaurants yet. This means there is still a major concern that dining out for safe contaminated free gluten-free meal at restaurants puts your health at risk. Just today I went to a restaurant and they put gluten-free bread in a toaster and I had to explain why it was unacceptable to do so! Some restaurants are 3rd party certified through groups who try to regulate a kitchen line, which is great, but it's still risky. Eating out is a major risk for a Celiac and gluten intolerant. This is a fact, not opinion.

Some Good-ish
FDA approved <20 ppm because that's what Dr. Fasano has evaluated as a safe amount traces for a Celiac. It's currently impossible to test for zero gluten traces and it's unlikely that our foods have zero traces because of the various steps in the farm to manufacturing to retail extensive process. However, there is an allergen protein test to swab for any types of proteins found in variety of foods, but that's just not feasible for regulation unless you're a manufacturer utilizing a kitchen space with resources, time and money to test efficiently and throughly.

An Unfortunate Bad
It's still not going to be easy to trust every product with a gluten-free label. Some products won't label anything at all and people may tell you it's safe for a Celiac. Also the only regulation is done when a brand is caught with a product that was NOT <20ppm after there are complaints that food made consumer sick. Accidents may happen for years because of irresponsible manufacturing and labeling processes. So let's help each other through community and contact brands that may be doing this wrong.

Learn More
Now you can educate yourself further on gluten-free ppm levels that well known brands are testing for gluten contamination here and read more about the recent August 2013 FDA labeling update here.