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Celiac disease suffers get new protection from label regulations

Celiac Disease and New Label Regulations

The New York Times reported this week that the Federal Government has established standards for identifying foods as “gluten free” on food labels. According to the report, the standards were instituted to “help the three million Americans with celiac disease and bring uniformity to the $4 billion market for gluten-free products.”

Gluten, a composite of starch and proteins, is found in a variety of foods such as wheat, barley and rye. Unfortunately, people with celiac disease may be gluten intolerant and can experience an increase of production of antibodies which destroys or damages the small intestine lining when they consume certain grassy grains which contain gluten.

How is the Federal Government protecting individuals with celiac disease?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"]Cooking gluten-free shortbread cookies. Cooking gluten-free shortbread cookies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]

In 2004, Congress passed a law which required the FDA to set standards for determining how much gluten could be in a food for the food to be labeled gluten free. This standard, which many argue is important, has become even more critical as the consumer demand for gluten-free foods has risen. According to reports, the “sales of gluten-free products stood at $4.2 billion in 2012, nearly triple what they were in 2008.” The ruling from the FDA, which was announced last Friday, is the answer to the law passed by Congress.

According to the FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the F.D.A., Michael Taylor, to be considered “gluten free” the food product must have a gluten limit of 20 parts per million. This requirement is similar to what has already been accepted by Canada and the European Union and was the limit expected by most patient advocate groups and experts in the industry.

Many are excited about the standardized labeling arguing celiac patients can now rest easy that if they choose the right foods they can stay healthy and not get sick. Others noted that this ruling is not that ground breaking because many of companies producing food were already anticipating this decision and have started making foods with the right limits prior to the ruling.

What if a company makes products which do not meet the new requirements? Companies could be forced to recall products. Many industry experts claim this move would not be necessary because the ruling is in line with what food companies wanted and expected.

Why eat gluten free?

Consumer researchers have polled consumers and found that most people advocate or follow a gluten free diet because they believe it can lead to weight loss and it is healthier for them. Experts argue that there is no evidence to support gluten free food will increase weight loss.

Do I have celiac disease?

Although symptoms for celiac disease can vary, the common symptoms can include:

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