NASSCD Calls for Industry Standardization of “Gluten-Free” Labeling

Courtesy Business Wire

The North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease (NASSCD) has announced a call for all restaurants and food manufacturers to properly label gluten-free products to avoid confusion that has the potential to threaten the health of people with celiac disease.

The move comes after two restaurant chains, Chuck E. Cheese and Domino’s Pizza, last week separately announced new gluten-free food product offerings that provide significantly different levels of safety for people with celiac disease.

Celiac disease is a genetically inherited autoimmune condition that can damage the small intestine, and can lead — if untreated — to further serious complications, including anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and even certain cancers. Celiac disease is triggered by the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

“We want to eliminate the market confusion that has surfaced recently, provide clarifying facts and information about gluten-free labeling to food manufacturers, and ensure the public’s safety,” said Stefano Guandalini, M.D., president of the NASSCD, and founder and medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. “Additionally, there is too much variance from manufacturer to manufacturer.”

The announcements of new gluten-free pizza offerings by Chuck E. Cheese and Domino’s Pizza are a case in point.

In its May 11, 2012, press release, Chuck E. Cheese described a process intended to protect customers from inadvertent gluten exposure: “To avoid cross contamination or accidental exposure to gluten ingredients in Chuck E. Cheese’s kitchens, the personal cheese pizza, manufactured by USDA/FDA-approved, gluten-free facility Conte’s Pasta, will arrive to stores in frozen, pre-sealed packaging. The bake-in-bag pizza will remain sealed while cooked and delivered and until opened and served with a personal pizza cutter at families’ tables by the adult in charge.”

On the other hand, in a May 7, 2012, press release, Domino’s Pizza announced a gluten-free pizza crust that it said was “appropriate for those with mild gluten sensitivity” but not for people with celiac disease because “Domino’s cannot guarantee that each handcrafted pizza will be completely free from gluten.”

“Our position at the NASSCD is that a product is either gluten free or it is not,” Guandalini said. “There is no in between. In fact, gluten exposure — including in minute amounts from cross-contamination — can be detrimental to people with celiac disease. Repeated exposure can lead to potentially grave medical complications, not to mention a poor quality of life.”

According to Guandalini, as little as 10 mg of gluten in a day can reactivate — in very sensitive patients — celiac disease.

“We strongly encourage Domino’s and other restaurants and food manufacturers to properly label and market gluten-free offerings, as so many responsible companies have done” Guandalini said. “There should be no need for disclaimers. A product is gluten free, or it is not. Marketing a product to be “sort-of” gluten free or “low” gluten is completely useless for those who require the strict diet.”

The NASSCD, along with other organizations, has been working with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to put forth a “gluten-free” standard. That standard would require that, in order to claim a food product as “gluten free,” the end product must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten (equivalent to less than 20 mg in about 2.2 lbs.). Anything short of this standard would be considered false advertising.

The NASSCD was founded last year to advance the fields of celiac disease and gluten-related disorders by fostering research, and by promoting excellence in clinical care, including diagnosis and treatment of patients with these conditions. Approximately 1 percent of the population is estimated to suffer from celiac disease, though the condition often is undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a less well-understood condition with a broad range of symptoms, including fatigue, migraine headaches and digestive disorders, and whose mechanism or cause is not yet identified, and that presently cannot be diagnosed by any medical test. Visit the NASSCD at www.nasscd.org .

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Urgent action needed: Food label legislation may die

By Gwen Smith, Editor – Allergic Living Magazine

Your help is urgently needed. We need your voice to tell the Government of Canada that it must pass the food label legislation that it promised 2 years ago.

This legislation would require all food package labels to clearly and thoroughly list the top 10 priority allergens and gluten among ingredients.

In July 2008, following Allergic Living’s write-in campaign of 4,000 letters, the federal government announced it would push ahead with new regulations. We all greeted this as great news.

After a long consultation process, the regulations were ready in February. But still they are not law, still there are no firm answers on “when” they will become law.

Now, Allergic Living has learned that the regulations will expire by the year’s end if not passed. This will mean starting the whole process – a decade in the making – again from scratch. This is unconscionable!

Please join Allergic Living, Anaphylaxis Canada, AAIA, the Canadian Celiac Association, and other concerned groups by writing a letter (send by e-mail or mail) to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Also send copies to the Health Minister, your own MP, and President of the Treasury Board. (Contacts are below.)

Your voice, and your stories of how important accurate food labels are to you and your family, will make a difference. Together, we can make this happen. The government must hear that this legislation is not optional – these regulations are essential, and will in fact save lives.

See further information on the food label regulations and this campaign here: http://www.allergicliving.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=5984&p=34174#p34174

Please get your friends and family to write, too. Thank you so much for your action and your support!

Sincerely,

Gwen Smith
Editor, Allergic Living magazine

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

Telephone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900
Email: pm@pm.gc.ca

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq
Health Canada
Brooke Claxton Building
Tunney’s Pasture
Postal Locator: 0906C
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0K9

Telephone: (613) 992-2848
Fax: (613) 996-9764
Email: minister_ministre@hc-sc.gc.ca

Stockwell Day
President of the Treasury Board of Canada
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Strategic Communications and Ministerial Affairs
L’Esplanade Laurier, 9th Floor, East Tower
140 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0R5

Telephone: (613) 995-1702
Fax: (613) 995-1154
Email: Day.S@parl.gc.ca

For your local MP’s address: http://bit.ly/9zujo9

Links of Interest:

• Health Canada Food Allergies and Labeling – here
• Regulations as published in Canada Gazette Part 1 – here
• Criteria for the evaluation of new priority allergens – here