Friday, August 2, 2013

FDA Makes Life Easier, I Think?

I'm back from my blogging vacation, and just in time, because something sort of awesome happened today.

You can read more about it here, but in a nutshell, the FDA has *finally* laid down some rules about gluten-free labeling.

Direct quote:
"It requires that, in order to use the term 'gluten-free' on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims 'no gluten,' 'free of gluten,' and 'without gluten' to meet the definition for 'gluten-free.'"

So what does that mean? Well, it means that if a company is going to plaster the phrase "gluten-free" on its products, they better dang well be ACTUALLY gluten-free, and have the test results to prove it.

Yeah, this is kind of a big deal. Because right now? Anyone can call any product gluten-free, all willy-nilly, even if it's a bag of wheat, with no consequences.

Theoretically, once this goes into effect, you can pick up anything that SAYS gluten-free and it will BE gluten-free, at least to 20 ppm, which is what most studies consider "safe" for celiacs. And that will be great.

The new rules, though, are optional - only necessary IF a company wants to label their product as gluten-free. But what about the companies that don't want to pony up the cash to test their products? Testing is expensive, and while I *know* I need to verify every single thing I put in my mouth, I will admit that I have been guilty of buying products that are labeled "gluten-free" without giving the Web site/customer service rep/Bible a consultation. I mean, clearly, I know to stay away from wheat/barley/rye/oats, but I don't always have the ability to Chinese water torture customer service reps about what constitutes "natural flavorings," or on some occasions, "artificial flavorings." (I know, so sue me. Sometimes I eat things that are fake. And save the lecture, I can't hear you over the sounds of my Skittles.) So sometimes, if I'm buying cheese, or pickles, or ice cream, and the container says GF, I blindly trust. If it doesn't, the product usually goes back on the shelf unless I can make heads or tails of the ingredient list.

A lot of the Aldi and Wal-Mart store brands carry a "naturally gluten-free" logo on them. And what about places like Trader Joe's, who throw that "no gluten ingredients used" distinction on so many products in the store? If they aren't going to test, what happens? I know we should be all high and mighty and only support companies willing to do the leg work that earns the *new* gluten-free distinction, but let's be realistic - until someone wants to sponsor me and bankroll a homesteader/commune/pioneer lifestyle for me, I'm still going to have to visit grocery stores to buy food. And sadly, my public servant income and nowhere-near proximity to Whole Foods doesn't really solve that problem.

I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth, really. I promise I am Christmas-morning excited about this, because it will do a lot of good in helping celiac folk eat safely. I applaud the FDA for acting on this, and I'm so proud of the people who worked tirelessly to get this pushed through. I guess I'm just opening up some talking points. Truly, there are gajillions of products now that ARE gluten free, even if they don't carry that label, and there are tons of things labeled that aren't as gluten free as they should be. So here's to taking a step in the right direction. Now if only we could just martial-law all companies into labeling everything safe as, well, safe, we'd really be in good shape.

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