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FDA seeks comments on gluten-free food labeling

BY Alaric DeArment

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.

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California joins six other states in caffeinated beer ban

BY Allison Cerra

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Legislation designed to ban the availability of caffeinated alcoholic beverages in California has become law.

California governor Jerry Brown signed SB 39, a bill drafted by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, that prohibits the production and sale of caffeinated beer beverages at retail locations throughout the state. With the passage of SB 39, California joins Massachusetts, New York, Washington, Utah, Michigan and Kansas in banning these drinks.

The bill was first introduced in late 2010.

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Research: Consumers more concerned with fat, calorie intake than high-fructose corn syrup

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO — Despite the negative connotation high-fructose corn syrup carries as an additive to food and beverages, it seems that consumers are more concerned with fat and calorie intake.

New research by Mintel Research Consultancy, a service that supports more than 500 of the world’s largest companies with syndicated research and custom research projects, found that 37% of consumers surveyed said they have been limiting or avoiding calories in the past six months, 20% have been limiting or avoiding fats and oils, and 17% reported cutting back on products with sugar or added sugar. These results compared with 4% of consumers that said they are actively limiting or specifically avoiding HFCS.

Mintel also found that 4-in-10 label readers seek information on fat or calories, compared with just 3% that seek information on HFCS and 25% who seek information on sugar content.

"We sought to find out how cognizant consumers are of HFCS, what they’ve heard about HFCS and what efforts they’re making to reduce or limit their intake of HFCS and other sweeteners," Mintel Research Consultancy senior analyst Erin Murray said. "Sugar and sweeteners in general seem to be a bigger concern than HFCS."

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