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Let the buyer beware.
I got a lesson this weekend on trusting a well-known company to accurately label their gluten status.
I keep to God-made, traditional foods for all but one meal or snack a week. On Sunday night, I allow myself something packaged or homemade-but-carby if I am in such a mood. This past Sunday night, I ate some cookies that were prominently labeled ‘Gluten-Free,’ only to find out that they technically weren’t.
They were run on shared equipment. They don’t reveal that on their box. Of this prominent company’s GF products, this is the only product they make that is not manufactured in a dedicated facility. I do ok with things that aren’t dedicated facility, I just have to avoid shard equipment. Therefore I thought this product was safe when it only contained a same facility warning with the reassurance that they do ELISA testing. It was only after I checked their website that I found the statement about shared equipment and how they clean it between uses. As if that is some sort of an assurance.
The labeling laws in this country are a mess. Currently, it is legal to slap ‘gluten-free’ on a loaf of wheat bread because the term is not defined by the FDA. The proposed standards would change that to being below 20ppm. And these standards, which have the backing of many GF organizations, still have not passed after being held up for many years.
Under the current proposed standards, items that test as being below 20ppm of gluten could be labeled as gluten-free. Below 20ppm is not free of gluten; it contains a very small amount of gluten. People with celiac disease can still react. Why? Because the body is searching for a particle the size of a virus or bacteria. That is smaller than any food molecule. And that is why people can have long-term, major issues such as malabsorption, nutrient deficiencies and leaky gut without seeing an immediate symptom they associate with glutening, such as diarrhea or vomiting.
Why did they choose 20ppm as the cut-off? Because that is the amount the currently available test is able to detect. Their choice isn’t based on science or an understanding of how people react to gluten, it’s based on their current limitations, which will likely change as better testing methods are developed. For more information on the science and the questioning of that science, see a report that is part of the comment docket. Some of the reviewers obviously miss that you can have an exposure that causes damage at the cellular level which does not create immediate, visible symptoms upon ingestion.
The absence of symptoms and the absence of damage are two totally different things.
If you wish to know more about the proposed gluten-free labeling laws in the US, I suggest these websites.
The current FDA docket for comments The docket number is FDA-2005-N-0404
The FDA’s Q&A on the proposed labeling laws
The FDA Gets Serious About Gluten-Free Labeling Laws from Forbes.com (and note the conflicting statements with the FDA’s website)
FDA Moves Forward on Gluten-Free Labeling Rules from the Celiac Disease Foundation
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