In the US, we’ve been patiently awaiting the agreement to new voluntary gluten-free labeling…and in Canada– celiacs are fighting to keep proposed labeling laws from being derailed by one heavy-hitting lobby.
Gluten Free Labeling in the US
Right now any product you see labeled “gluten free” in a US grocery store is done completely voluntarily by the company. It’s a problem right now because there’s no controlling what one company’s version of gluten free is, versus another. So many companies are guessing at what they think the Food and Drug Administration will enact, when they decide (soon??). But the reality is..the US government is approaching a 2 1/2 year delay in enacting this voluntary guideline that would give food producers an idea of measurements and rules to follow so they can call a product gluten free.
I would love to see gluten free labeling as a requirement for all companies myself, but I supposed I’m biased. Instead, the guidelines will not be mandatory like the top 8 food allergens are that are listed in the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). So sooner or later when the FDA acts, companies could (conceivably) continue to make a genuinely gluten free product, and not bother to label it gluten free because the government isn’t requiring them to do so.
I wrote about this topic last September (2010) when I emailed the FDA and asked when this was going to get done and I was told “…the Agency is working on gluten labeling and will post the final rule in the Federal Register when it is complete.” Either way, as gluten free Americans it’s time to get ticked off and take some action! 2008 (when it was supposed to be complete) is long gone! The American Celiac Disease Alliance has put together an easy way for you to tell your members of Congress to get the FDA back on track in this area. Click here to do this now!
Keeping Gluten Free Labeling on Track in Canada
This year the Canadian government is slated to enact its allergen and gluten labeling. But according to the Canadian Celiac Association, the beer industry is looking to derail the whole project.
“[We] have been working diligently with Health Canada for over 10 years to have legislation passed that will enable Canadians to see, on each and every label, exactly what allergens are present in foods and beverages. This legislation is far too important for Canadians to let the beer industry put it off the rails.” – Canadian Celiac Association
The group said in a recent news release, “the direct and indirect economic burden of food allergy/gluten reactions to Canadian households managing these conditions exceeds $5 billion per year.” An amazing yet not surprising statistic.
The National Post talked to brewers about why this is an issue,
“These people [celiacs] are very well educated…If a Canadian doctor diagnoses you with celiac disease, you’re going to know that beer is not ideal for your system.” -Andre Fortin, a spokesman for the Brewers Association of Canada
There is also a concern about relabeling returnable bottles that are reused for years,“If we were to have to change the text on our label, we would likely have to destroy our entire bottle float,” said Joel Manning, Mill Street’s brewmaster told the National Post. The estimated cost of their current bottles in circulation:$2 million.
In my estimation, the government just wants to do what’s right, but the brewers want to be exempt and the celiac folks are saying Wait a minute–don’t screw this up!
The final regulations will be published soon and then the food industry has 18 months to comply.