FDA seeks comments on gluten-free food labeling

Agency to accept comments for 60 days starting Wednesday

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration is looking for comments from consumers, the food industry and others about proposed labeling for gluten-free foods.

Originally proposed in 2007, the proposals include a requirement that foods labeled as "gluten-free" can't contain 20 parts per million or more gluten, a protein that occurs in wheat, rye and barley. The proposal was based on technologies used to detect gluten in food, which can't detect it reliably if the level is less than 20 ppm.

The agency also is making available a safety assessment of exposure to gluten for people with celiac disease, a condition affecting around 1% of Americans that causes intolerance to gluten and can lead to damage of the small intestine and interference in the absorption of nutrients.

"Before finalizing our gluten-free definition, we want up-to-date input from affected consumers, the food industry and others to help assure that the label strikes the right balance," FDA deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor said. "We must take into account the need to protect individuals with celiac disease from adverse health consequences while ensuring that food manufacturers can meet the needs of consumers by producing a wide variety of gluten-free foods."

Gluten-free foods have become more common on store shelves in recent years. Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid stocks them at its new Wellness format stores, such as the one in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and New York chain Duane Reade includes a selection of gluten-free options in many of its stores, including the newly opened location on Wall Street. Last August, St. Louis-based supermarket Schnucks Markets partnered with Ellisville, Mo.-based Beck's Gluten Free to provide fresh and prepared gluten-free foods that customers could order by phone or online and pick up the next day.

Comments can be submitted to the FDA at Regulations.gov. The docket will be open starting Wednesday afternoon for 60 days.

Login or Register to post a comment.