FDA FAILS BASIC MATH
I wanted to make my first blog a happy thing about how much life is improving in terms of access to safe Gluten-FREE food. Thanks to the FDA you get a rant!!!
When I read the FDA release on gluten-free labeling, Tina Fey’s voice echoed in my head. REALLY!?……. REALLY!? In case you haven’t heard, the FDA has decided that food manufactures, processors and packagers (industry) can label their products “gluten-free”, provided they contain 20 parts per million (PPM) or less.
The FDA has a long history of throwing common sense out the window when industry lobbyists come to town. Here is another example of how nothing has changed.
The basic question: How much is free?
Here’s the common answer, and it comes from any grade one math student.
How much is free? 0.
Ask this grade one student if possibly, free has just a little bit, maybe not one but just a little bit. They will give you a funny look. They may even invite you to join them in math class.
Now the lobbyists point of view:
First of all, the lobbyist is working on behalf of lazy food manufactures. In recent years a number of consumers have begun to stop buying their products because they wish to live without gluten. Industry can easily change the formulas and make gluten-free products, but their equipment is dirty with gluten, and a lot of their ingredients are cross-contaminated. Fixing these problems is costly and inconvenient.
That argument is essentially that just a little bit of cross-contamination from dirty equipment or improperly packaged ingredients should be okay. After all it’s expensive to clean equipment properly, or run dedicated gluten-free facilities. It’s also more expensive to get good quality ingredients.
Processed food is big business, and they are not going to let the consumer go without a fight. Solution? Get the FDA to allow them to call their products gluten-free when they are really nothing more than gluten-reduced
I believe that 20 PPM is not acceptable, and once again the FDA has simply created more problems for those of us who are trying to have a fair understanding of what is actually in our food.
Let’s look at it from some different perspectives:
If I have chosen a gluten-free lifestyle, and I purchase food that is advertised as gluten-free, I am entitled to eat without fear of any gluten. How many peanuts are allowed in “peanut-free” How much lead is allowed in “lead-free”? A lot less than 20 PPM! But if it is only a choice, industry approaches it with the opinion what I can’t see won’t hurt me.
Stepping up one notch, if I have a gluten sensitivity, 20 PPM may, or may not cause some irritation. I may, or may not be able to tell what is causing my discomfort. I will probably not consider my food if it has been declared to be gluten-free.
Now step up to the next level, a gluten allergy. If I have an allergy to gluten, 20 PPM, depending on the severity, is going to cause a reaction in my body. It may or may not be severe depending on my allergy. But it is an unnecessary stress. After all I paid for gluten-free food.
Finally, if I am celiac, 20 PPM is going to start an auto immune response. Depending on how my body responds, this may be a mild irritation to several hours in the smallest room in the house contemplating hate mail for the FDA. Remember celiac disease means, that if the body senses any gluten, it activates antibodies to fight the intrusion. These antibodies cause an auto immune response which is damaging to the digestive system.
For the record I am celiac, and due to the nature of the work I do I have spent many hours doing my writing in that little room. I take many risks when travelling so I count on properly labeled food for safe times.
Now to give fair time to the other side, they point out that 20 PPM is not really all that much. It could happen anywhere.
They are lying on celeb gossip both counts:
If I make a soup with spices, celery, carrots, potatoes, peppers, onions and perhaps some chicken (read chicken soup), there is NO gluten in it. I checked. 0 PPM. Really. I can make this soup it home safely, and I can make this soup in a restaurant safely. To have 20 PPM I would need dirty cookware or improperly handled ingredients. The FDA decision essentially allows manufactures to do it wrong and claim they got it right.
For those of you who are unsure as to how much 20 ppm is, I have attached a picture. The picture is a box of sugar cubes. In 144 sugar cubes, 20 ppm equates to 26 sugar granules. This would be about the amount making up the nose in the picture.
Regrettably in North America we have now taken two steps backwards. For those of us who are celiac, intolerant, have gluten allergies, or just choose to eat a healthily diet with no gluten, we must now go back 10 years to that point where nothing could be trusted and every single thing (other than fresh fruits meats and vegetables) had to be checked.
With a little bit of luck, perhaps some of the certification agencies will develop a gluten-free mark identifies a declaration of certified GF-0PPM
I promise a “Happy Blog” next week.
p.s. I don’t remember where I got the puppy picture. If it is yours drop me a note and I will be happy to give you the photo credit.
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