News

ACDA Asks USDA For Commitment on GF Labeling

The celiac community has spent years pressing the FDA for a gluten-free labeling standard.  Last year, FDA leaders gave us a commitment to have a standard by the end of 2012. In May, we kicked off National Celiac Awareness Month by focusing on the need for labeling at USDA. Read our letter to Secretary Vilsack and his response to the ACDA.

Statement regarding Dominos’ (not) Gluten Free Pizza
and Tiered Certification Programs

Last week, members of the American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA) carefully read the press release and watched the video prepared by the national restaurant chain Domino’s regarding its new ‘gluten free’ pizza.  The initial enthusiasm quickly gave way to bewilderment. Within hours, individuals shared their frustration about the safety of the pizza as well as confusion over the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ tiered restaurant certification program.

In parsing the news from May 7th, it is clear that Dominos, like many other companies sought to capitalize on the growing gluten-free market by developing a ‘certified’ gluten-free crust. Unfortunately, cross-contamination in the preparation process effectively renders the pizza unsafe for the celiac consumer. Media information was distributed to members of our community, using the words individuals love to see, ‘gluten-free’ with the clear intent of generating a buzz about the pizza. The pizza is not ‘gluten free,’ though clearly marketed as such, and is not recommended by Domino’s or NFCA for persons with celiac disease and gluten related disorders. The misrepresentations made in rolling out this product were irresponsible.

This product is inherently unsafe and should never have been labeled or marketed as ‘gluten free,’ implying it could be consumed by members of our community.

Almost everyone with celiac disease or a related gluten-disorder knows that currently there are no gluten free labeling requirements in the United States, and that consumers are routinely misled by inappropriate labeling. Last October, the NFCA, like many organizations, shared its views on FDA’s proposed standards for gluten-free products. At that time NFCA stated it “strongly opposes the implementation of a dual-tier regulation” for labeling foods as gluten-free because “it would cause confusion among consumers.”

The same rationale holds true for restaurant certification programs.  Green and red are universal colors for safe and not safe and are represented as such in the NFCA restaurant program.  An intervening tier or level indicates that something in-between may be OK. To keep members of our community safe, the dividing line must be clear, and unambiguous. Individuals who are required for medical reasons to follow the medically prescribed gluten-free diet must be able to make clear distinctions, in a timely manner.  Clarity for consumers is best achieved through a program with a simple safe or not safe approach, nothing in-between.