The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act required Health and Human Services to set a gluten-free labeling rule by 2008 to aid people with celiac disease, a life-threatening autoimmune condition. The only known treatment is a strict gluten-free diet.
An estimated 3 million Americans have celiac and even more may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Without adequate labeling, those on a medically prescribed gluten-free diet struggle to make safe food choices and stay well.
Children with celiac cannot participate in the National School Lunch Program when food service staff cannot determine if products are gluten-free.
Congress did its part by passing the law. It is up to the White House to protect the health of millions of adults and children by finalizing the rule NOW.
Response to Petition
By Michael R. Taylor
Thanks for your petition. The Food and Drug Administration is a science-based, regulatory public health agency, and as we make determinations on food labeling, we take time to ensure the final standard is the right one.
We're pleased to share that on August 5th, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration published the final rule defining the term "gluten-free" for voluntary food labeling, setting an enforceable standard that will benefit people with celiac disease, as well as those with gluten sensitivity.
Manufacturers that use "gluten-free" on their food labels must ensure their foods are either inherently gluten free, or do not contain an ingredient that is:
- a gluten-containing grain (e.g., spelt wheat);
- derived from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour); or
- derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat starch), if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food.
Also, any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food must be less than 20 ppm.
Manufacturers have one year to implement this rule, meaning all manufacturers using a "gluten-free" claim must ensure their labeling is in compliance with the final rule by August 5th, 2014.
It's important to note that many foods currently labeled as "gluten-free" may already meet the new federal definition, but this rule will ensure greater consistency in labeling – and that's good news for consumers.
Michael R. Taylor is Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration