2005N-0279 Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods; Public Meeting
FDA Comment Number : EC1127
Submitter : Ms. Kristine Bemboom Date & Time: 09/20/2005 04:09:31
Organization : Ms. Kristine Bemboom
Category : Individual Consumer
Issue Areas/Comments
I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in January of this year. I have struggled for the past eight months with trying to rid my diet of gluten. It is not an easy task to say the least. I feel like I am in danger of ingesting gluten every day of my life.

Food labels indicating that they are 'gluten-free' should mean that the food item does not contain any wheat, oats, barley, rye or any of their derivatives. Celiacs who eat any foods containing any of these food items will encounter medical problems in varying degrees, including the possibility of death.

When I try to identify foods of whether they contain gluten or not, I look for wheat, oats, barley & rye. I also look for modified food starches, maltodextrin and many other additives. I have not been able to memorize all additives containing gluten, so this process is very difficult. Sometimes I bring a list of forbidden items with me to the store. I have spent countless wasted hours over the last several months reading labels to determine if a food item contains gluten or not.

Most of the foods I buy do NOT indicate that they are gluten-free (about 75%). I usually find myself shopping at specialty grocery stores to find specific 'gluten-free' items that are marked clearly. Most prepackaged items are NOT marked. If they are marked, I usually find them in the organic or 'health' section of the store.

If a product is marked 'gluten-free' I feel much safer buying the product and don't have to 'second guess' myself. Having the product marked definitely influences my decision to purchase the product. I do NOT feel safe buying any product that does not specifically state that it is 'gluten- free'. Every time I go shopping I feel like I am putting myself and my life in danger.

Personally I would not consider more than one level of definition of gluten-free helpful. My doctor has informed me that I HAVE to COMPLETELY ELIMINATE gluten from my diet. When I had a follow-up visit with my doctor, I still had trace amounts of gluten in my system. He informed me that my health was the SAME as it was before I started eliminating ANY gluten.

Ultimately, he was telling me that I may as well not do anything if I am not going to completely eliminate gluten from my diet. And, therefore, I would ultimately die.

Labeling products 'gluten-free' is so important to so many people in the world. It would be a great service to all Celiacs, as well as others who need a 'gluten-free' diet for other health reasons, to ensure that all products that are 'gluten-free' are labeled so on all store shelves.