In 1994 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which led me to create Celiac.com in 1995. I created this site for a single purpose: To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives. Celiac.com was the first site on the Internet dedicated solely to celiac disease. In 1998 I founded The Gluten-Free Mall, Your Special Diet Superstore!, and I am the co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.
Celiac.com 07/24/2001 - In an effort to make food ingredient labels easier for everyone to understand, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently revising its food labeling laws. If Congress passes the current proposed legislation it will make life much easier for those with food allergies and intolerance. The Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) spearheaded the yearlong label revision project and worked with 18 food companies to create voluntary guidelines for food labels that will help consumers avoid foods that could trigger an allergic reaction. The current recommended FAAN guidelines will identify the top eight allergens that cause 90 percent of food allergies, and will also avoid the use of technical food language in favor of easier to understand terms. For example, instead of using simply natural flavors on labels, the new labels would include the source of the ingredient: natural peanut or milk flavor. According to the guidelines common allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts like walnuts and pecans, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, soy, and wheat should be clearly identified on all labels.
On a positive note, the new FAAN guidelines have been voluntarily adopted by certain companies within the food industry for the benefit of the allergic consumer. Numerous consumer complaints and calls from the 6-7 million people in the USA with food allergies, not to mention the fear of lawsuits from the 150-200 people that die each year from them, were certainly motivating factors for them taking this important step. In any case, any change in food labeling practice would have to be an improvement over the present situation. The new FAAN guidelines, however, amount to only recommendations at this point, although Kelloggs and General Mills and several other companies have already adopted them.
Legislation incorporating the FAAN guidelines has been proposed by representative Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) , which, if passed, would make them federal law in the USA. To encourage a stronger version of the proposed new labeling laws, contact your representatives now about this important issue!