Friends far and wide have been sending me links with the FDA’s new gluten free labeling requirement. I guess I should be celebrating. After YEARS of dragging its feet – the proposed rule came into effect back in 2007 – the FDA has finally issued a final rule to regulate voluntary gluten free labeling in foods. Here’s the Q&A (click here).
The rule requires any product that is labeled gluten free to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.
Yes, this is a success. But only if the FDA doesn’t think it’s job is now done.
So here’s my input:
What we really need is mandatory labeling of products that do contain more than 20 ppm, not a rule to regulate voluntary labeling of products that do not contain more than 20 ppm.
What would that do?
1) It would make my 88-year-old grandmother able to shop for me.
2) It would allow my friends and the parents of my daughter’s friends to offer me or her food without calling me to read off ingredients.
3) It would let me to relax when reading a label, rather than wishing I had a stronger prescription in my glasses or worrying that I missed something.
4) It would allow my six-year-old daughter to read her own food labels so she could check products for herself and become more independent at controlling her own disease.
5) It would quash any doubts when a product does not have a complete list of ingredients.
6) It would allow non-native English speakers (including visitors from other countries) to safely eat without learning every English word that is a foodstuff containing gluten.
7) It would allow/help/relieve _____________. There are hundreds more stories that could fill in that blank, beyond the few I can name in a short minute at the keyboard.
As a society, we support the presence of ramps for wheelchairs. We know that the common good is important, even if some of us do not need the ramps ourselves. In the FDA’s own guidance (click here), it states that “celiac disease [is] an inherited chronic inflammatory auto-immune disorder that is estimated to affect up to 3 million Americans” (emphasis added). Three million Americans (and the number is growing) can’t rely on mandatory gluten free labeling to help them eat safely. What a travesty.
I don’t care, frankly, if it’s the FDA or the USDA under an amendment to FALCPA (click here) – which already requires wheat, soy, eggs, nuts and other common allergens to be labeled – or what other government body or agency moves the ball forward. I don’t care whether it’s a law, regulation or rule. Just do it!
So I am celebrating. But also steaming. Too little, too late.