A Bit of Good News from the FDA on Gluten-Free Labeling Issues

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”


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Comments (6)

  • Kathy Bridge Reply

    Thank you for all your hard work and persistence on behalf of all of us who have Celiac Disease, Dermatitis Herpetiformis and gluten sensitivity.

    September 10, 2018 at 1:51 pm
  • Valentina Reply


    I just want to say thank you so much for what you do!! I’m new to the celiac community as I was just finally diagnosed early this year.

    I have a question: I work for a company that claim they are gluten free. I’ve asked them if they have tested each product individually. They’ve told me that they’ve tested the facility and that the facility falls under 5ppm threshold. Is this enough? Shouldn’t they be testing the products as well?

    Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this. I look forward to hearing from you!


    September 11, 2018 at 12:19 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Val, Hmm. Not sure what the company means by “tested the facility.” Does this mean they swab test shared equipment? Do they test “raw” ingredients for gluten or ask for a certificate of analysis for gluten from suppliers of at-risk ingredients (e.g., naturally gluten-free grains, legumes, etc)?

      September 11, 2018 at 2:19 pm
  • Angelica Nelson Reply

    I really appreciate all your hard work on this! Thanks so much!

    I’m on the cynical side at the moment and I interpret that as “we fired our customer complaint staff and are considering how to handle complaints in the future with no staff, but we want to hear from you because we like to print these things out and use them as a darts background… we’ll be sure to follow up with you to let you know which staff member lost the darts game and has to deal with you.”

    Hehehe, I meant that to be funny, sorry if it’s not. I make jokes when I feel helpless. It’s better than crying.

    September 11, 2018 at 12:43 am
    • Oonagh Williams Reply

      It’s not funny Angelica, but I like how you ranted, and it’s how we all feel and imho think that’s what’s happening at companies – just soothing words that mean nothing. I’m sure we’ve all phoned companies and not received a truthful answer. we need to keep being very loud. Hopefully some of you will make it to NCA conference in Boston next month, when Tricia and I are both speaking.

      October 22, 2018 at 3:45 pm
  • Carol Reply

    Unfortunately, the FDA seems to feel their job is to protect the manufacturers, not the people of the United States and others who consume goods made here. Not just the people who consume these mislabeled goods suffer. It reflects negatively on the hard working honest companies who are diligent in insuring that their products are safe for consumers. The US gets a bad rep because the FDA is not diligent in enforcing their own rules.

    June 13, 2019 at 12:10 am

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