Consumer News

FDA Wants To Regulate Use Of “Gluten-Free” Labels On Food

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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The FDA wants to regulate gluten-free labels on food.

The FDA wants to regulate gluten-free labels on food.

WBZ-TV's Paula Ebben Paula Ebben
Award-winning journalist Paula Ebben co-anchors WBZ-TV News at 6PM...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Strolling the aisles of the grocery store you may have noticed more and more products claiming to be gluten-free.

Right now, these labels are not regulated and that’s something the FDA is looking to change.

Bakery owner Natalie McEachern knows first hand the importance of these labels. Natalie has celiac disease and like 3 million other Americans, she has an extreme sensitivity to gluten.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

Gluten is a protein found in common grains like wheat, rye, and barley. If she eats a product containing gluten she can be sick to her stomach for days. That’s why she opened Glutenus Minimus in Belmont in 2008.

When you’re at Natalie’s bakery, you know exactly what you’re getting in your food. But at the grocery store those gluten-free labels could be misleading.

Jennifer Frank is on the board of the celiac support group at Children’s Hospital. Frank says setting tough new standards for these labels will be life changing for families dealing with the disease.

The FDA wants to define gluten-free as food containing less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

Children’s Hospital nutrition specialist Karen Warman says that’s a small fraction of what most people with celiac disease can tolerate.

Warman said the FDA “came up with the 20 ppm based on several studies that showed that most individuals can eat 50 mg of gluten a day which is 1/100th of a slice of bread.”

While many say this is a great first step, there are concerns the new rules still may not go far enough to keep people healthy.

“It would be great if they wouldn’t let you put gluten-free on a label unless it was manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility. You still have to be careful of that,” McEachern warns.

Frank wishes the FDA would mandate companies to label their food if it contains gluten in the same way food is labeled if it may contain nuts.

The new gluten-free regulations are expected to be in place sometime next year. If you want to submit a public comment on the proposed regulations, log onto www.regulations.gov. Search for docket number FDA-2005-N-0404.

If you or a family member needs help coping with celiac disease there is help available. Check out the website www.childrenshospital.org/celiac.

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