My attention was drawn by an email last week, to the fact that although we (well, mainly freefrom manufacturers) may moan about the fact that we do not have any ‘thresholds’ for dairy or nuts contamination (we do not have a set figure of how little of the allergen they are allowed to have in the product) – at least we do have one for gluten free. To be labelled ‘gluten-free’ you have to have less that 20 parts per million of gluten in your product, to be labelled very low gluten you have to have less that 100ppm. (See the FSA’s article on Explaining Gluten free if you want to know more.)
But in the US it is still a free for all. To quote from the press release I received from the 1in133.org:
Seven years ago the FDA (Food and Drink Administration) was tasked with developing and implementing such standards as part of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). The delay in implementation and lack of labeling rules has left millions of Americans with celiac disease and gluten intolerance at risk of illness from contaminated food.
Currently, U.S. food manufacturers can claim “gluten-free” on product labels without appropriately informing consumers if a product is truly free of all potentially harmful ingredients. As a burgeoning market — $560 million in sales in 2004 and projected sales of approximately $2.6 billion in 2012 — gluten-free food products have brought many newcomers to the space claiming gluten-free status on their labels while not necessarily removing all potential allergens. Other manufacturers are reluctant to label their products “gluten-free” because there is no accepted standard. This disparate situation leaves consumers who eat gluten-free to guess which products are actually safe for consumption.
FALCPA was passed to protect food-allergic and celiac patients from having to decipher ingredient labels through sometimes-harmful trial and error efforts. The law, which requires the top eight allergens to be clearly listed on ingredient statements, did not require disclosure of barley or rye, the other grains that are toxic to those with celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities. The 2004 mandate for the FDA to develop and implement gluten-free food labeling requirements would fill that void.
To try to chivvy the FDA into getting on and finalising the standards for gluten-free labelling 1in133.org (symbolising the one in every 133 people to have coeliac disease, although I think they are rather behind the times in their numbers) is planning to bake the world’s largest gluten-free cake and serve it to Capitol Hill legislators, noted coeliac disease researchers, gluten-free community leaders and food corporations at the first Gluten Free Food Labelling Summit, in Washington, D.C. on May 4th.
The kind of PR stunt which might actually work! Good luck to them!