FDA issues regulation of gluten-free labeling - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

FDA issues regulation of gluten-free labeling

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The Copper Kettle in Dubuque offers a variety of gluten-free dishes The Copper Kettle in Dubuque offers a variety of gluten-free dishes

The Federal Food and Drug Administration released a new regulation Friday on what qualifies as gluten-free, something previously unregulated.

Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, rye and barley. Health officials say the new labeling will help millions of Americans who have celiac disease, a condition where eating gluten causes health complications.

Mary Hampton is a registered dietitian at Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque. She said one in every 133 Americans has the condition.

Some restaurants are starting to adapt. The Copper Kettle, a restaurant in Dubuque's north end, offers a wide variety of gluten-free dishes.

Kitchen manager Paris Dreibelbis said making dishes from scratch helps him and his staff members ensure gluten-free dishes are actually gluten-free.

"A lot of things that come in pre-packed, they put gluten in them, so we make everything here and we know what has it and what doesn't," Dreibelbis said.

At lunch Friday with her co-workers, Gina Blasen said the gluten-free options on the Copper Kettle's menu jumped out at her like never before.

"My nephew, just last week, they decided to put him on a gluten-free diet because he's autistic, and so I just noticed it on the menu and thought, 'I wonder how many other restaurants have that even on their menu that I've never even noticed before?'" Blasen said.

Some health professionals are now putting children with autism on a gluten-free diet. Hampton said it can't hurt, but that's really not who gluten-free diets are for.

"It's not something that's going to promote weight loss or provide any magic cures or benefits for most people," Hampton said. "It's really only for people who have that diagnosis of celiac disease."

She said eating gluten-free has become somewhat trendy in recent years. It's not harmful for a person who doesn't have celiac disease to eat gluten-free food. Hampton said it's just unnecessary.

Under the new rules, foods labeled "gluten-free" must contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten.

"Being on a gluten-free diet is really tough to do, so this definitely will make it easier for patients who need to follow those diet restrictions, Hampton said.

Even though less than one percent of Americans have celiac disease, the Copper Kettle doesn't mind having mindfulness on the menu.

"Definitely something we have to have," Dreibelbis said. "That way if they want it, it's there."

Restaurants are not the target of the new FDA regulations. The rule applies to food manufacturers, which have a year to comply. Until now, manufacturers have been able to use their own discretion as to how much gluten they use.

2012 saw the sale of more than $4 billion of gluten-free products.

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