2005N-0279 Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods; Public Meeting
FDA Comment Number : EC1410
Submitter : Mr. Gary Powers Date & Time: 09/20/2005 06:09:40
Organization : Celiac/Sprue Association, USA
Category : Individual Consumer
Issue Areas/Comments
The term "gluten free" should be on food labels and should mean free from all wheat, barley, rye or oats and any derivatives of these grains. Even the slightest percentage of any of these grains will create problems for celiacs. We all have different sensitivities to "gluten" and we don't know how much it takes to have damage occur to our gut. The standard should be zero percent gluten or a number very close to zero.

I read labels to identify which foods don't contain gluten. This surely adds 15 to 20 minutes to weekly shopping. Very often a food which had the "gluten free" label last month doesn't have one this month. This is a constant struggle for all celiacs. Food manufacturers are getting creative and sticking in a disclaimer on some of their products that they are not to be held responsible for any gluten content since they don't have control of what goes into the raw materials shipped into their facilities. They'll add that they are compliant, but cannot speak for their suppliers. Many pharmaceutical products have gluten in them. They need to be labeled so. If the pharmacist doesn't make the call to the manufacturer, then it's a trip to the Physician's Desk Reference at the library. Often-times, this isn't good enough and the celiac must call the company direct and ask the questions. Most times the pharmaceutical company will not divulge any information unless you are a health care professional. Back to the doctor to make the call. The time adds up depending on the problem. The older we get, the more time we have to spend keeping everyone honest.

I believe that less than one half of one percent of all foods are labeled "gluten free", and most of these foods are carbohydrates: Pasta, Cookies, Cake and Bread. Celiacs can eat meats, fish, vegetables and fruits which are naturally "gluten free", but may contain gluten added along the way to enhance the flavor. Coatings on fries, additives to soups to thicken them, starches added for stability, flour added to spices to stretch the product and increase profitability all present obstacles celiacs have to maneuver around, just to name a few.

When looking for food, if "gluten free" is on the label I cautiously read the label anyhow. Some of the products contain questionable ingredients which I know to be a problem with some celiacs. I take no chances and treat gluten as poison. I was sick long enough eating it and know what healthy feels like without gluten. I will only purchase a product with the "gluten free" label if I trust it and have had success with it. If I eat it and have "celiac symptoms" I don't purchase the product again. If I trust the manufacturer, I might slip and not read the label each time, but I seem to read them anyway at home since they can change any time they want. Trust, but verify!