Accountability Begins For Food Manufacturers Using Gluten-Free Label
ACDA Efforts Result In Food Standard To Aid Millions
ALEXANDRIA, VA – August 5, 2014 – The American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA), the nation’s leading advocacy organization for individuals with celiac disease and gluten-related disorders, today celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and welcomed the effective date for its final provision establishing standards for gluten-free labeling.
The federal labeling regulation finalized last year will help to ensure that individuals with celiac disease have the basic information necessary to manage their health. The only treatment for the estimated 3 million Americans with the genetic, autoimmune condition is to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Gluten is the common name for the protein found in all forms of wheat, as well as rye, barley and triticale, and is harmful to persons with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
In part, the voluntary gluten-free labeling regulation requires products bearing a gluten-free label to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) or 20mg/kg of gluten, a level research has found to be safe. Companies are not required to test their products to verify they fall below that threshold. However, products that do not meet the requirements of the rule could be deemed misbranded and subject to FDA regulatory action.
“With the labeling requirements finally in place, patients will be better equipped to safely manage their diet,” noted Dr. Alessio Fasano, Director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The FDA has devoted years of work to make sure the standard, which becomes effective today, is safe for celiac patients. Our research supports that standard,” he added.
Educating consumers, health care professionals and food manufacturers about the implementation and limitations of the new regulation is the next step, says Pamela Cureton, RD, LDN, registered dietitian of the Center for Celiac Research.
Many reputable manufacturers of gluten-free products adopted the 20 ppm standard years before FDA proposed it. From an industry perspective, Enjoy Life Foods CEO, Scott Mandell commented, “Having a single definition and standard that consumers can rely on is incredibly important. It has leveled the playing field for food manufacturers.”
The labeling regulation has shortcomings the ACDA would like to have addressed in the future. The definition of gluten-free is quite broad allowing products such as bottled water or fruits and vegetables to be labeled gluten-free. In addition, Beth Hillson, President of the ACDA noted, “the scope of the labeling requirements is limited to foods under FDA’s jurisdiction leaving out meat, poultry and some egg products under USDA’s authority. A uniform standard applied to all federal food agencies is still needed.”
When FALCPA was signed into law in 2004, sales of gluten-free products were $560 million. The figure rose to over $4.2 billion last year. By 2017, sales of gluten-free foods and beverages are expected to exceed $6.6 billion.
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