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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    FDA Clarifies Gluten-Free Rules for Restaurants

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.
    FDA Clarifies Gluten-Free Rules for Restaurants -

    Celiac.com 01/03/2014 - The United State Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has clarified what their recent gluten-free rule means for restaurants. When the FDA announced its gluten-free labeling standard in August, the agency said that, for restaurants, “any use of an FDA-defined food labeling claim (such as “fat free” or “low cholesterol”) on restaurant menus should be consistent with the respective regulatory definitions.

    Amici's Gluten-Free MenuThe agency noted this same approach would now be followed with respect to “gluten-free” claims made in restaurants and other retail food service establishments.



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    The FDA's updated Question & Answer, #9 under ‘Labeling’, now reads:

    FDA recognizes that compliance with the gluten-free rule in processed foods and food served in restaurants is important for the health of people with celiac disease.

    In August 2013, FDA issued final rule that established a federal definition of the term ‘”gluten-free” for food manufacturers that voluntarily label FDA-regulated foods as “gluten-free.”

    This definition is intended to provide a reliable way for people with celiac disease to avoid gluten, and we expect that restaurants’ use of “gluten-free” labeling will be consistent with the federal definition.

    The deadline for compliance with the rule is not until August 2014, although we have encouraged the food industry to bring its labeling into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible.

    Given the public health significance of “gluten-free” labeling, we encourage the restaurant industry to move quickly to ensure that its use of “gluten-free” labeling is consistent with the federal definition and look forward to working with the industry to support their education and outreach to restaurants.

    In addition, state and local governments play an important role in oversight of restaurants. We expect to work with our state and local government partners with respect to gluten-free labeling in restaurants. We will consider enforcement action as needed, alone or with other agencies, to protect consumers.

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    What is important here is more an education of food preparers. They may have an understanding of foods that are listed or considered gluten free and feel that is the end of the story. However, as we all know so well, unless the AREA prepared or cooked in/on is also gluten free - free from cross contamination - then gluten intolerant patrons will undoubtedly still get sick. This component seems unlikely to be easily resolved as so many lower level preparers are totally unfamiliar with what celiac - or even - gluten is....

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    Education is the key to getting these establishments on board with appropriate gluten free labeling. These establishments could also serve to profit from being recognized as a "safe" place to eat for gluten-free consumers.

     

    Unfortunately, I don't believe that most restaurants and bakeries understand the importance of the integrity they must have from storage to preparation and all the way through serving the meal or product when they say something is "gluten free."

     

    I have personally seen bakeries label something gluten free. And, the item is sitting right next to "traditional" bakery. Cross-contamination issues are hugely important to recognize as well.

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    I just got off the phone from talking with the FDA regarding their gluten-free regulations for restaurants. They told me, point blank, that although there is a write up about the FDA expecting restaurants to follow suite with the labeling and packaging regulations, that they do NOT regulate restaurants and that the FDA gluten-free regulations are not mandatory for restaurants. All restaurant regulations are entirely up to individual states.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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