One week after reopening the comment period for a proposed gluten free labeling rule, the Food and Drug Administration’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor wrote a piece for The Atlantic explaining Why the Government is Regulating Gluten Free Foods.
His thoughts for the article were on the money in terms of describing why people with celiac disease (and those with gluten sensitivities) need a gluten free diet. People with celiac disease and those with gluten sensitivities are the audience the FDA is targeting when launching this proposed label (thank heavens the target audience isn’t fad dieters).
“It’s time for them to know their food is safe.” – Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods, FDA
First a little background. On August 2nd, Taylor and his colleague Michael Landa – acting director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, talked with people in the gluten-free/celiac community about the proposed rule. They described the proposed rule: to be allowed to label your product gluten free you must produce food containing less than 20 parts per million of gluten. He said in the article, “they [the FDA] want to strike the right public health balance of protecting consumers with celiac disease and enabling food manufacturers to meet the demands of these consumers for a wide variety of gluten-free foods.” He said the FDA believes the proposed rule does that.
Taylor admitted there were common questions during the teleconference call about “cross contamination during production, whether FDA is considering other labeling claims such as ‘low gluten’, and whether a standard symbol will be used to help consumers…” I would add there were a few questions about enforcement too… Those, and any concern you may have, are all on the table for the comment period.
Read more about the August 2nd teleconference (which The Savvy Celiac was in on) and how to submit your comment here.
Why does the FDA feel gluten free foods need regulation?
Taylor explained last week on the teleconference call that right now, with no standard, gluten free consumers really have no way of knowing how safe their product really is. Taylor explained in The Atlantic piece today, the new labeling rule will have an impact on “…consumers with celiac disease who now have to navigate the ‘gluten free’ labels on their grocery store shelves hoping that consuming a particular product won’t bring on any of the painful symptoms of their illness….or worse yet, lead to chronic serious health effects such as infertility or intestinal cancers…”
Taylor said the FDA has “pledged to move promptly to issue a final rule defining ‘gluten free’ next year.”
They do need to act quickly. The 3-4 year delay in creating this voluntary gluten free rule has been a frustration — one that forced the creation of the Gluten Free Labeling Summit in May of this year (and 1in133.org), as well as my question during the teleconference about what they’ve been doing over the last four years, and now an interesting editorial piece yesterday in celiac.com.
The celiac and gluten sensitive community is getting antsy. So the quicker the FDA gets this done, the better.
Read more on who Michael Taylor is in a Washington Post article from 2010