2005N-0279 Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods; Public Meeting
FDA Comment Number : EC482
Submitter : Ms. Tracy Sachtjen Date & Time: 09/09/2005 06:09:24
Organization : Ms. Tracy Sachtjen
Category : Individual Consumer
Issue Areas/Comments
Thank you for refining the definition of "gluten free." Gluten free should mean without any wheat, barley, rye, oats and any of their derivatives, because those who are severely allergic will need the most protection that this absolute "gluten free" will afford. After watching my father suffer for years and in fact nearly die from weight loss and under-nutrition, my family finally learned about his severe intolerance of any product containing even the slightest trace of gluten. When at his worst, he could not even tolerate gluten in his shampoo, so I would hope that the FDA would take such a struggle into deep consideration when formulating the guidelines. As my family has realized that my aunt, uncles, brother and I, too, suffer from gluten intolerance, we have learned to read labels carefully. We identify gluten by looking for triggers -- malt vinegar, caramel color, and of course wheat or soy sauce, among others -- and also calling individual companies to ask about their product. We each spend at least five hours a month dedicated to figuring out if the "additional spices" listed on a label may have gluten. We also ask for specific ingredients in any meal eaten outside of the home. Only ten percent of the products I currently buy are marked "gluten free," as I tend to buy fresh produce, plain rice, and non- marinated meat. Any packaged food I do buy I get only -- and absolutely only -- if it says "gluten free" or if I've previously called the company. Thus "gluten free" printed on a product label most certainly does influence my decision to purchase products having the same ingredients. I will not take chances and will always choose the "gluten free" marked product over the one not marked as such (even with the same ingredients listed, as we know that gluten can get hidden in ingredients like "spices" and "food starch"). I would applaud your effort at labeling and would even more appreciate the two or more level definition of gluten-free. Differentiation among a Level A, Level B, and Level C, for example, would powerfully inform me as a consumer so that I know what level of risk I am taking. Even more helpful would be the knowledge of being able to find where I might be getting un-intentional gluten -- oftentimes the hardest part for Celiac Sprue sufferers to figure out. More knowledge, with more differentiation, can only help those of us who already know about our intolerance, and can only help other people who suffer from gastrointestinal problems, dermatitis herpetiformis and other skin dryness, anemia, weakness and weight loss, but who have not yet heard about gluten intolerance and have thus whose improper diagnosis threatens their health. Thank you ever so much. Tracy Sachtjen, Long Beach, CA