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lucia

U.s. Policies Around Gluten & Other Food Allergens

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Hi everyone,

I'm in the advanced stages of my recovery from gluten intolerance/celiac, thanks to a combination of strict dietary regulation (including the Specific Carbohydrate diet) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (both acupuncture and herbs). I'm so grateful for my recovery. I was able to take a vacation last week to Rome and Florence to see the sights and to the U.K. to visit my godchild. A great trip, especially after such a difficult year.

I find myself wondering though: why have the governments of both Italy and the U.K. instituted policies that address people's medical issues with gluten, but my government has not.

In Italy, gluten-free foods are available in every pharmacy, right next to the diabetic foods. The government mandates this. In restaurants, when I described myself as a celiac or asked for gluten-free food, my servers were serious about accommodating my needs. Sometimes, I was turned away from a restaurant, but I was not served food with gluten. Given the seriousness with which my servers treated me, I wondered if the government also holds restaurants responsible for what they serve people? Of course, in a country with so much awareness of celiac, gluten-free goods were also readily available in supermarkets and restaurants with gluten-free menus were easy to find.

In the U.K., every packaged food product is labelled as to its allergens, including gluten (but also wheat, soy, milk, etc. and even celery). Even all prepared foods, such as soups and salads, are labelled. I can't comment on eating in restaurants, since on our short trip, I ate only prepackaged, prepared foods and home-cooked meals. But, also, on British Air, I was served a gluten-free dinner without any fuss.

Laws requiring 1) labels alerting consumers to food allergens, and 2) availability of gluten-free goods in pharmacies seem like solutions that are both simple and effective for people like us who struggle with a gluten-free diet. These measures also seem like they'd be no sweat off the backs of the politicians who get them passed. So, what's the hold-up in the U.S.? I know that the American medical community is hardly as responsive about diagnosing celiac/gluten intolerance as their peers in Europe, but still - isn't it so often consumer-led groups that get bills passed in the U.S.? Is there a lobbying group of celiacs out there that is working to get measures like these passed? Or is this the kind of thing that will be taken seriously only if it's led by doctors?

And, most importantly, what can I do to support such policies?

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Part of the reason is political - it *is* a big sweat off the politicians backs, because the agriculture business has a HUGE lobby with a LOT of money paying them to keep things easy. Not to mention the lawsuit fears that are rampant in this country. Write to your congress people and voice support of *reasonable* legislation (even if it's not the ideal of what you'd like). And vote with your pocketbook in places that make things as much like you would prefer as possible.

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I understand your frustration. In Canada we are even behind the U.S.! In preparation for a recent trip to Italy and Croatia I discovered that testing for celiac disease for every single person in Italy is mandatory by the age of 5. Amazing. It was interesting eating out in Italy; at a gelateria I was told I definitely could not have any of the gelato (Venice) but I could have the granita (delicious - I love granita). The employee even got the list of ingredients out to show me. Their knowledge was incredible. Rather than being met with blank stares, employees are so well versed in gluten-free. Croatia was not as easy but still easier than Canada (at least where I live where there are literally ZERO eateries I can eat at). Restaurant cards helped. Good to know that those of us with celiac disease are able to continue to safely eat in Europe!

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Part of the reason is political - it *is* a big sweat off the politicians backs, because the agriculture business has a HUGE lobby with a LOT of money paying them to keep things easy. Not to mention the lawsuit fears that are rampant in this country. Write to your congress people and voice support of *reasonable* legislation (even if it's not the ideal of what you'd like). And vote with your pocketbook in places that make things as much like you would prefer as possible.

In addition to this we also have Big Pharma who would rather sell us meds for symptoms. Over just the last 10 to 20 years or so a lot of the meds to control celiac related symptoms have gone to OTC so folks self medicate instead of insisting on a diagnosis of what is really wrong. We are actually taught from a young age that we should take a pill rather than finding out what the cause is. Many think feeling ill is 'normal for them'. That means lot of money lost when folks no longer need daily immodium, laxatives and meds for stomach pain, headaches, psychological and learning problems etc. In the US they give us pills to control symptoms rather than figuring out the cause.

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I think big pharma does indeed have a LOT to do with it, but--

Part of the reason is political - it *is* a big sweat off the politicians backs, because the agriculture business has a HUGE lobby with a LOT of money paying them to keep things easy.

I think this is the primary reason right here.

Despite the fact that grains are the most caloric-dense, and least nutritive of almost any food we consume, that they comprise the BASE of the US's food pyramid should be clue #1.

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