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Long-Awaited Regulation Will Make It Easier for Americans to Follow a Gluten-Free Diet

Healdsburg, CA – August 2, 2013 – The Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California, a nonprofit organization serving the greater Bay Area and Sacramento region, today commended the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for establishing a federal standard for gluten-free labeling. The long-awaited regulation will help to ensure that individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity have the basic information necessary to manage their health.

The rule will impact dozens of gluten-free food manufacturers in the Bay Area, who must comply with the new regulation by August 2, 2014, and thousands of local residents, who will find it easier to follow a medically prescribed gluten-free diet.

To comply with the new rule, products labeled gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten. Until now, there has been no federal regulation of the term “gluten-free” on packaged foods. Gluten is the common name for the protein found in wheat, rye and barley, and it is harmful to people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. The only treatment for celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune condition, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

Last fall, the president of the Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California (CCFNC), Jennifer Iscol, created a White House petition calling for the finalization of the long-overdue rule. The petition reached the required signature threshold for a response from the administration, which is expected soon, and its success renewed calls for action on the rule.

“The new regulation will make it far easier for people on a gluten-free diet to make safe choices at the grocery store,” Ms. Iscol stated. “This is huge news for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, who can become very ill by consuming just a microscopic speck of gluten. Having to analyze gluten-free ingredient labels in the absence of federal regulation has been very difficult for consumers. It’s a huge relief to move forward.”

“Patients need accurate labeling to safely manage their diets,” said Amy Burkhart, MD, RD, who specializes in celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity and serves on the board of the CCFNC. “For this patient population, ongoing exposure to gluten, even in small quantities, can cause major health problems. The FDA’s work is a significant contribution to their health.”

The gluten-free labeling rule is the result of a decade-long effort led by the American Celiac Disease Alliance, the national advocacy organization for celiac disease, working together with the FDA, patient support groups, medical experts, scientists and food manufacturers.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to set labeling standards by August of 2008 to aid the estimated three million Americans with celiac disease. It has taken the FDA an additional five years to establish the definition for gluten-free. “It has been a long wait, but in the end, we feel that the FDA based its work on an incredibly thorough, science-based assessment that serves the needs of both consumers and manufacturers,” Ms. Iscol said.

The year FALCPA was signed into law, sales of gluten-free products were $560 million, and they rose to $4.2 billion last year. By 2017, the sales of gluten-free foods and beverages are expected to exceed $6.6 billion. The skyrocketing growth in the market increased the need for FDA’s action to set a national gluten-free standard.

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About the Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California
The Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California provides evidence-based support to those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento region. We carry out this mission by heightening awareness; educating the medical community, food purveyors and the general public; administering Camp Celiac in partnership with The Taylor Family Foundation; and by offering group and individual support.