A Bit of Good News from the FDA on Gluten-Free Labeling Issues
We’ve received a bit of good news from the FDA but before you get too excited continue reading to the end of the post…
Gluten Free Watchdog periodically sends emails to FDA updating them on possible facial misbranding* related to the gluten-free labeling rule. An email sent on August 14, 2018 stated in part:
“I dealt with two product issues yesterday. A sauce labeled gluten-free yet containing beer with barley and malt listed as sub-ingredients AND a cookie labeled gluten-free containing spelt… I am coming to the end of my rope with the lack of enforcement on the part of FDA. I was on the phone with manufacturers past 9 pm last night. The manufacturer using beer mistakenly believes that the only criterion for labeling a product gluten-free is that it contain less than 20 ppm gluten. The store making the cookie initially responded that spelt is a grain but not wheat. FDA really must start taking this situation seriously. While FDA may believe it has done due diligence to educate manufacturers about the gluten-free labeling rule, based on real world evidence it has not…Please understand that folks with celiac disease have a serious autoimmune disease. They are not following a gluten-free diet based on a fad. What does this community have to do for the FDA to take misbranding seriously?”
FDA responded to this email on August 28, 2018. In a nutshell it said:
- FDA understands our concerns.
- FDA takes food labeling issues very seriously.
- Information provided to them by Gluten Free Watchdog about gluten-free labeling issues has been forwarded to FDA Consumer Compliant Coordinators.
- I maintain a running list of potentially misbranded food items and periodically send an updated list to FDA.
- FDA is currently assessing how they handle consumer complaints on food labeling issues of concern.
- They would like to meet with us for our perspective.
- They will follow-up with us.
A big thank you to Kaki Schmidt, a Gluten Free Watchdog subscriber and co-author of our FDA citizen petition. Her hard work and expert guidance helps keep this ball rolling.
Thank you also to everyone who sends me photographs of facially misbranded foods.
To all of you, please keep the faith that the noise we are making is being heard and is having an impact even when it seems we are screaming into the wind.
Note: We’ve sent emails, including one this morning (September 10, 2018) to FDA about CedarLane Organic Couscous, Veggies & Chickpeas with Citrus Dressing. This product is labeled gluten-free yet contains couscous from wheat. Wheat is not declared on the label. The manufacturer told us on August 29th that they were instituting a recall. While Sprouts Farmers Markets is reporting the recall (click HERE to view recall notice), this recall is not listed on FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals, and Safety Alerts page. For more information click HERE.
Bottom Line: Regardless of the email response from FDA, we must continue to speak out about the lack of enforcement of the gluten-free labeling rule. Keep making noise.
*Facial misbranding is the term we use to describe a product label displaying 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”