2005N-0279 Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods; Public Meeting
FDA Comment Number : EC36
Submitter : Miss. Christina de Juan Date & Time: 08/15/2005 05:08:04
Organization : Miss. Christina de Juan
Category : Individual Consumer
Issue Areas/Comments
I am a consumer with Celiac disease, and I wish to address the following questions regarding food labeling, specifically labeling of gluten-fre foods.

1) What should ?gluten-free? mean on a food label? Why?

I would expect that printing gluten-free on a food/drug label should mean that there are no gluten proteins (any of the proteins from the grains that cause damage to Celiac patients) remaining in the finished product. Some products are naturally gluten-free, but others such as distilled grain vinegar, may be gluten-free after processing. Requiring a gluten-free label on food products would greatly simplify finding the appropriate safe food products to consume.

2) How do you identify foods that do not contain gluten? Time spent identifying foods?

If the product has a gluten-free label, I will scan through the ingredient list just to be certain. If the product does not have a gluten-free label, I spend a great deal of time reading ingredient lists. If there are some ambiguous ingredients, such as "modified food starch," I will either not buy the product or call the manufacturer of the product to determine if the product is safe for consumption. The problem with this is that many manufacturers may change suppliers for those questionable ingredients and the product will no longer be safe. Unfortunately, if the product ingredients change without the consumer knowing, consumption of that product then becomes a gamble with one's own life.

3) What percentage of foods and which types purchased are marked ?gluten-free??

Approximately 25% of foods I purchase are marked "gluten-free." Those tend to be cereals and baking mixes. Of the frozen prepared meals, less than 10% of what I purchase is labeled "gluten-free." The rest I must read the ingredient list to identify if the product is safe. In general, the vast majority of the foods I purchase are fresh meats and produce just to be safe.

4) Does ?gluten-free? printed on a product label influence your decision to purchase products having the same ingredients? To what extent?

At this point, no. If "gluten-free" is printed on a product label, I am more likely to try that specific product first. Since so few products actually carry a "gluten-free" label, I spend a great deal of time reading labels on other products anyway. If I try a product that is labeled "gluten-free" and I find a less expensive product with the same ingredients that is not labeled "gluten-free," I will tend toward purchasing the less expensive product. However, I would be more likely to trust the product with the "gluten-free" label to be safe, while any other product with the same ingredients I would be more careful before purchasing.