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, and since then it has become an invaluable resource to people worldwide who seek information about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.
In 1998 I created The Gluten-Free Mall, Your Special Diet Superstore! which was also another Internet first—it was the first gluten-free food site to offer a shopping cart-style interface, and the ability for people to order gluten-free products manufactured by many different companies at a single Web site.
I am also co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.
The following letter was prepared by Nancy of the Gluten Intolerance Group in Seattle, WA:
Representative or Senator
I urge you to cosponsor the legislation that Representative Nita Lowey and Senator Edward Kennedy will introduce to tighten the regulation of food-allergens. Millions of Americans have food allergies, and each year about 150 people in the United States die from anaphylactic shock caused by a food allergy. Metabolic disorders, such as gluten intolerance, also require careful and strict elimination of certain foods from a persons diet to maintain normal health. Over 1.3 million people in the USA suffer from gluten intolerance, which requires strict elimination of wheat, rye and barley from the diet.
A 2000 survey conducted jointly by the Food and Drug Administration, Minnesota, and Wisconsin found that one-quarter of the bakery products, candy, and ice cream sampled were contaminated with peanut or egg ingredients that were not declared on the product labels. Undeclared allergens may cause immediate reactions, or slow destruction of the intestine and long-term health complications associated with malnutrition.
Representative Lowey has said that the legislation would require companies to list the major allergens (including those in spices, flavorings, and colorings) by their common English names and to include a telephone number on the label that consumers could call for more information. The legislation would also require manufacturers to better prevent cross-contact between products made in the same facility or on the same production line, allow the Food and Drug Administration to assess penalties against firms that violate the food allergen requirements, and require the Centers for Disease Control to establish a system for tracking food allergy-related deaths. In addition, Congress should also require companies to indicate on labels that the food may contain allergens when the possibility of contamination cannot be totally excluded.
Rye and barley must be included in the list of allergens declared on labels. This addition will better serve all persons with allergies and intolerances.
I urge you to cosponsor this important public health legislation, with the above-recommended addition.