You may have to bear with me (or bare with me…could be fun) as I have a feeling this may be a long, rambling post. One…because it’s 10:00pm, I just worked a 14 hour day and I’m a bit punch drunk. And two…because it deals with a topic that has no clarity: The FDA Gluten-Free labeling laws. My goal by the end of this post is to have a firmer grasp on what the hell is allowed and not allowed and hopefully give you a firmer grasp as well. And I’ll also have a call to action for you at the end from the Gluten-Free Watchdog.
I’ll start this with an email I received last week.
She then contacted the Three Jerks Jerky team (yeah…I know that sounds funny) with some questions and some choice words and here is their response.
A few quick notes: 1) Celiac is not an allergy. Just want to clarify. 2) Defatted wheat germ? Yeah I had to look it up too. Sounds lovely. 3) Trying to sell the other flavors as part of your response? Tacky.
But the question is: Are they allowed to label that gluten-free. So off to the FDA website I went to (hopefully) get the answer.
(Dude note: It’s now 10:29 and I’m fading. Will finish this up in the morning. Good night all.)
(Dude note: Ah…that’s better. A good night’s sleep (well for me anyway) and a nice up of Java. Let’s proceed, shall we?)
So off to the FDA website I went and here is what I found:
The final FDA rule defines “gluten-free” as meaning that the food either is inherently gluten free; or does not contain an ingredient that is: 1) a gluten-containing grain (e.g., spelt wheat); 2) derived from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour); or 3) 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.
Ok…so let’s break this down one at a time and see if the product passes or fails.
1) It cannot contain a gluten-containing grain. FAIL.
2) It cannot be derived from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten. FAIL.
3) It cannot be derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed if the final product has more than 20ppm gluten. ?????
One and two are clear fails. But number three is where it gets tricky. The FDA is saying the product can indeed contain gluten as long as it’s been processed to remove enough gluten to declare it safe. And here is where the rule fails the celiac community. Upon further reading, the rule states that the manufacturer is not required to test for the presence of gluten in their final product. Yes…even though it contains gluten.
But wait…there’s more (because isn’t there always more?). The rule states that the manufacturer can use any testing method they’d like but they recommend using a scientifically valid method. Again…giving the power to the manufacturer to make it easier to NOT comply.
And yes…there is even more. The FDA uses the ELISA based methods to test foods for gluten because it’s “scientifically valid”. But guess what this scientifically valid method does not test for? Yep…it cannot adequately detect gluten in fermented and hydrolyzed foods, which is exactly what the Jerks Jerky product in question is.
Is anybody else’s head spinning??
So what’s the answer? To me, it’s simple. Just don’t buy any food products that are made from gluten-containing grains. If we don’t buy them, they won’t make them. If we use the power and strength of our community to purchase foods only from the manufacturers that do it right and have our health in their best interest, we can make a difference. So I’m asking you to please consider rewarding the companies that take the extra measures to keep us safe.
And I’m respectfully asking my fellow bloggers to stop promoting foods that may not be safe to the community. I’ve seen it too many times recently and I just am shocked that someone would sell out the community to put money in their pockets. Celiac disease is not a career choice. It’s an autoimmune disease. Please treat it as such.
And now for the Call to Action I mentioned above. Not sure if you are aware of The Gluten-Free Watchdog, but he is exactly as her name suggests. She watches out for the community, tests questionable foods labeled gluten-free, let’s the community know and contacts the manufacturers to put a stop to it. She recently launched an FDA Citizen Petition to End Labeling Violations under the Gluten-Free Rule. This is an official FDA Petition, not simply one started on change.org. The petition is asking the FDA to establish new reporting and investigation processes to address facial misbranding violations under the gluten-free labeling rule.
What is facial misbranding? I’ll let GFW explain: We are defining facial misbranding to be when a product label displays a “gluten-free” claim but the ingredients list includes an ingredient that is prohibited under FDA rules from being contained in any product labeled “gluten-free” (e.g., barley malt, barley malt extract, barley malt syrup, wheat [except in limited circumstances with clear additional markings and language]).
You can read more about the petition here.
The petition has received 454 comments to date. The goal is 1,000. So here is what I’d like you to do (it’ll only take a minute):
- Go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2017-P-5118
- Click the blue Comment Now button next to “Citizen Petition from Tricia Thompson”.
- Write your comment why you are supporting this petition (required).
- Add your name. This is optional. If you do not compete these boxes, you will be listed as “anonymous.”
- Make sure the box “I am submitting on behalf of a third party” is NOT checked. Uncheck it if it is.
- Select a category. Many of you will be commenting as an “individual consumer.”
- Click continue.
- You should be given the opportunity to preview your information before submitting.
- After submitting your information, you will receive a tracking number for your comment.
That’s it easy-peezy.
Well…my original goal of this post was to add some clarity to the gluten-free labeling laws. Did I? I have no idea. But I do know one thing. Asking us to TRUST that companies making gluten-free products will do right by us is not a comforting thought. Anybody remember Cheerios??