It is a tad ironic to mention on one hand how the phrase “Gluten-Free,” or GF as it is listed on many products, has become mainstream knowledge. Yet, the other hand frantically waves for attention as the FDA has extended the comment period for 2007 regs on labeling food “gluten-free” for an additional 60 days. Wait, 2007 regs are not yet finalized and put into law? What is wrong with this picture?

Let’s see where to begin. How about chronologically? As in this is August 2011 and comment submission materials are now due in early October! Have we not wasted 4 years in trying to figure out how to help individuals who are by illness, as in Celiacs, in need of certified foods? The FDA says we are only talking about 1 % of the population that struggles with Celiac. I struggle with that low percentage for it hardly seems a day passes without more attention to this illness. Celiac research paints a different picture, a more startling numeric: 1 in 133 American people has Celiac, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

How about the people who are gluten intolerant? That number is certainly growing. The FDA focus is only on the US, but we know some countries, such as Ireland, have taken the lead on product identification and restaurant preparedness. Sure, more restaurants in the states are offering gluten-free menus and increasing their range of selections, but what about the security issue? Everyone needs to be certain that what is labeled or described as GF, truly has zero gluten.

Individuals who cannot tolerate gluten continue to struggle with dining out choices as they fear the separation of foods may not be tightly monitored. These are not whimsical fears. They are life-and-death matters.

So what happened to the “new” FDA that was promised to be a more responsive agency? Seems it is still buried under mounds of paper and limited in its roll-out of important mandates. What can a foodservice professional or a consumer do? React; respond within this extended deadline. Go to www.regulations.gov, and submit a comment. Follow the link.

As concerned consumers and food professionals, we cannot let this comment period slip away and allow mounds of paper to be ignored. We’ve had enough of that. GF and gluten intolerance deserve better attention and protection. Now.

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