2005N-0279 Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods; Public Meeting
FDA Comment Number : EC1503
Submitter : Mrs. cynthia DesRosier Date & Time: 09/20/2005 06:09:02
Organization : Mrs. cynthia DesRosier
Category : Individual Consumer
Issue Areas/Comments
Docket # 2005N-0279 It is very helpful to have "gluten-free" noted on products that are such. It should mean that the product ingredients are free of wheat, rye, oats, barley or their derivatives. If it only refers to wheat, there could be gluten from the other sources in the food that would cause an autoimmune reaction in those with celiac disease (1/133 people, according to the latest studies).
Currently, we read labels and look for "gluten-free", or read the ingredient lists to see if there are questionable ingredients. We then have to contact the company by email or phone to verify if the product is safe for our daughter, who has celiac.We spend a great deal of time doing this. When she was first diagnosed, it seemed as though nothing was gluten-free, because it was impossible to tell from reading the labels in the grocery store. We spent at least 2-3 hours daily on business days calling companies to check on their products. Five years later, we still make annual calls to the companies to see if they have reformulated their products, and if they are still safe for her.When a new product is served at a friend's house, or is a request, if it doesn't say"gluten-free", we have to call.It is also a huge problem when we travel. For instance, we know that Columbo yogurt is safe, but when we were in NYC, the stores near us only carried Dannon, which is not(it would be hard to tell from the label- we knew because we had called Dannon- but "natural flavors" can hide gluten).
All of the pastas, pastries, cookies, crackers, energy bars, cereals and breads that we buy are labeled "glutenfree", but they are usually from mail- order companies or health food stores that specilize in gf foods. Most major food companies do not use the phrase. Recently, a very few companies (Kraft, for instance) have a policy that they will not hide gluten, but it would be so much easier if the words "glutenfree" were on the packaging, and we need to know that by "gluten" they are including wheat, rye, oats, and barley, not just wheat. None of the canned, meat, dairy or frozen foods we buy state "gf" on the label. We have only bought these things after we have spent time and verified their safety with the company.
If I see an item labeled "gf" and a different brand has the same ingredients, but no "gf" label, I do not buy the other brand until I have verified its safety with the company. Because this is so time consuming, I usually buy the item that is labeled "gf", even if it is a bit more expensive.If a product is labeled "gf", we will often buy it just to try it to see if our daughter will like it. We would never "just try" an unlabeled item.
The three levels of gluten-free labeling would be an additional help. An item should not say gluten-free if it has traces of gluten in it. It should declare the trace amount, so the person can make their own decision.
Since more and more people are being diagnosed with this autoimmune disease, clearly labeled gluten-free food would be a great help to an ever-increasing group of Americans. Celiac disease is a life-long diagnosis. The only way to avoid damaging the intestine and creating further serious health problems is to eat a gluten-free diet for life.