Posts tagged ‘alice’

FNCE 2012: NFCA’s Gluten-Free Workshop for Dietitians

After pulling long hours leading up to Appetite for Awareness last month, you’d think our staff at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) would take some time to wind down. Not the case.

Mixing Gluten-Free Flours

NFCA Director of Development Kim prepped our gluten-free flour blends.

We immediately went full throttle on our next activity, which was hosting a Gluten-Free Culinary Workshop leading up to the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE), an annual meeting for food and nutrition professionals run by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). Planning had already been underway for months, and all the pieces were in place:

  • A Gluten-Free Baking Workshop with Chef Richard Coppedge, CMB, author of Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and a professor at CIA.
  • The Ancient Grains Challenge, featuring a “Chopped” style cook-off between teams of dietitians.
  • Educational sessions, including “Current Understandings of Gluten-Related Disorders” and “Case Studies: Living with Celiac Disease,” led by NFCA’s Alice Bast and Beckee Moreland, respectively.

I eagerly volunteered to help out and take photos and video at the workshop. (A chance to spend some one-on-one time with dietitians and top chefs? Please, I’m there.) So, bright and early last Saturday morning, I pulled up with a car full of goody bags and made my way up to the Academic Bistro at Drexel University.

Gluten-Free Workshop Goody Bags

The dietitians took home these goody bags full of gluten-free treats!

Even with all the details our VP Jennifer had provided, I still wasn’t prepared for how active this day would be. After spending the first few hours mixing huge batches of gluten-free flour blends and setting up our impressive ‘pantry’ of ingredients and fresh produce, it was time to step back and put the dietitians to work.

Our participants were from the Food & Culinary Professionals Dietary Practice Group (FCP DGP), a subgroup of the Academy. They already had a basic understanding of gluten-free food and cooking, but they came eager to learn even more. I think had just as much fun watching them as they did participating.

Gluten-Free Baking Workshop

Our baking workshop started off with an introductory lesson from Chef Coppedge. It was clear that he’s an experienced teacher, as his presentation was brief, yet informative. He brought good energy to the room and gave us a few chuckles as he talked. My favorite tip: Use seltzer water to make your dough lighter and fluffier, but don’t leave it overnight or it will over-ferment and deflate upon cooking.

Chef Coppedge - Gluten-Free Baking

Chef Coppedge helped the dietitians as they baked gluten-free goodies.

Then it was time to hit the kitchen. The dietitians whipped up gluten-free goodies like jalapeno & cheese muffins, spritz cookies and – my favorite – peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes. The hard part was figuring out which of the four gluten-free flour blends to use for each recipe. While the dietitians were mixing and measuring, Chef Coppedge was there offering quick tips. Best of all, they got to bring home a sample of what they baked. And the smells? Heavenly.

Gluten-Free Cookies and Muffins

Yum!

Ancient Grains Challenge

Across the hallway, our participants had to think on their feet as we presented them with pre-cooked gluten-free grains (amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa) and challenged them to make a fresh and healthy meal. For the additional ingredients, we had an impressive display of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, plus sauces, broths, beans and more, to complete their dishes.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

So much fresh produce!

To determine the winner, we recruited a diverse panel of judges:

  • Alice Bast, Founder and President of NFCA.
  • Chef Garrett Berdan, RD, a registered dietitian and chef who is part of the White House’s Chefs Move to Schools program.
  • Chef Charles Ziccardi, Assistant Teaching Professor of Culinary Arts at the Goodwin College of Professional Studies at Drexel University.

NFCA Board Chair Dorothy Binswanger even stopped by to assist with the judging – a deliciously good decision, as it turned out.

Gluten-Free Ancient Grains Challenge - Judges

The judges had some tough decisions to make.

The Ancient Grains Challenge went above and beyond our expectations. The dietitians were incredibly imaginative and resourceful, and their dishes had wonderful flavors. Among the finished plates, there were breakfast/dessert porridge with berries and a touch of orange zest; homemade soup with a side of bean salad; and ‘croutons’ made out of gluten-free grains and flax seed.

Gluten-Free Dish

The dietitians didn’t skimp on presentation.

To make the challenge even more realistic, some of the ingredients on the table were not guaranteed to be gluten-free, such as a broth that wasn’t labeled gluten-free and some premade sauces that required verification with the manufacturer before using. For the most part, the dietitians were cautious about choosing ingredients that were clearly gluten-free. On a few occasions, they asked about questionable ingredients, which became a teaching lesson as our VP Jennifer walked them through the process to verify the ingredient. When in doubt, they left it out.

Gluten-Free Food from Dietz & Watson

Lunchtime! A generous gluten-free spread from our sponsor, Dietz & Watson.

Educational Sessions

While the hands-on activities proved to be learning opportunities, NFCA’s workshop also balanced those active moments with some thoughtful discussions. The morning session on gluten-related disorders prompted good questions from the audience, and the dietitians left with a better understanding of the disease spectrum.

Gluten-related disorders info session

Alice’s morning session focused on gluten-related disorders.

In Beckee’s session, the dietitians discussed a variety of perspectives and scenarios related to gluten-free needs. There was an 8-year-old with celiac disease struggling with her school lunch program; a 19-year-old newly diagnosed and figuring out how to eat gluten-free at college; and a chef who was catering a gluten-free event. The case studies sparked plenty of “A-ha” moments as the dietitians worked through these real-life applications.

Gluten-Free Case Studies Session

Beckee presented three case studies about gluten-free needs.

So, to make a long story short, it was a winning day for all involved. My favorite part was chatting with the chefs and dietitians during and in-between each session. It always amazes me how a group can have similar interests and skills, yet put them to use in such a variety of ways.

Wegmans gluten-free

Thanks to Wegmans for sponsoring our gluten-free workshop!

Bravo to the dietitians for putting in an A+ effort at our Gluten-Free Culinary Workshop. We hope to “see” you again during our upcoming webinar on October 31!

- Cheryl

For more photos from the workshop, visit NFCA’s Facebook page.

October 12, 2012 at 10:21 am 1 comment

7 New Habits for Body and Mind

Last month, I saw food activist and writer Michael Pollan speak at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. As a fan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Michael’s prescriptive to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

During his talk, Michael noted some astounding facts that, despite all my work with the food industry, I was surprised to hear. Here are my top takeaways:

  • 40 new products are launched in supermarkets every day. That means we have a lot of choices, but also a lot of confusion about what’s best for our bodies.
  • Americans eat 20% of meals in our cars. We are all in a rush, and our on-the-go consumption is far from the mindful eating dietitians recommend.
  • There’s a new term, “nutritionalism,” that refers to our tendency to overhype “good” foods and villainize “bad” ones. We’re better off keeping things simple: more fiber, less sugar and plenty of exercise.

It’s time we all found more balance in our lives – physically, emotionally and socially. Inspired by Michael’s 7 Rules for Eating, I’ve developed 7 New Habits for Body and Mind. I encourage you to try these and to make your own list!

1) I read labels. When I shop, I not only check for gluten-free ingredients, but also read the label for sugar and carb content.

2) I have switched from olive oil to coconut oil in much of my baking.

3) I drink a green drink in the morning made with vegetables.

4) I set aside Sunday afternoons to cook a casserole and wash and cut veggies so I have wholesome weeknight meals and ready-to-grab nutritious snack foods.

Chopped Vegetables

Prep, prep, prep!

5) I stick mostly to the perimeter of the supermarket. That means fruits, veggies, lean meats and dairy.

6) I will not be orthorexic (having an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating). With so many “health” messages out there, it’s easy to go overboard. It is much better to enjoy life and savor each meal – and that includes the social aspects!

7) I have added yoga back into my life. I get stressed just like everyone else, and feeling frazzled all the time just isn’t fun. Yoga is a great workout and helps me wring out all that tension.

Cheers!

- Alice

February 21, 2012 at 10:03 am 1 comment

When You Can’t Do It All

Dear Friends of NFCA,

I get asked a lot, How do you do it all?  How do you run an organization, take care of your family, cook, and live a balanced life without pulling out your hair?  The answer is that I don’t do it all.  I make mistakes, but I try to learn from my mistakes.  And there are times when the ball does get dropped.

The NFCA Team

Our amazing team!

Our family recently moved. And, let me tell you, our holiday was a bit chaotic. I didn’t get any exercise for weeks on end. But my wonderful staff picked up the pieces in the office.  Thank you Cheryl, Jennifer, Nancy, Kristin, Whitney, Sue and Beckee.

I wanted to write a holiday blog post, but I honestly could not get my act together. On the bright side, I knew that it wasn’t the end of the world and that you would all understand. No one is perfect. We all do the best that we can, and my family needed my time and attention.  And I needed to unpack and organize my belongings.  Thank you, team NFCA!

- Alice

January 12, 2012 at 11:30 am 2 comments

NFCA Staff: Our Biggest Accomplishments of 2011

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has accomplished a lot in 2011, but I wanted to know what my fellow co-workers thought was their biggest breakthrough of the year.

GREAT Kitchens logo

GREAT Kitchens - training restaurants across the U.S.!

For Beckee and Jennifer, our gluten-free industry team, the top highlight was adding NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens training to US Foods Resource Advantage Program. The program offers discounts and deals on various resources for the foodservice industry. Thanks to Beckee and Jennifer’s hard work, more foodservice operators, including restaurants and dining halls, can now have access to gluten-free training through GREAT Kitchens at a discount.

Beckee also is proud of the increased availability of safe, gluten-free options for students from K-12 all the way through college. NFCA’s GREAT Schools program is aiding that cause by teaching dining hall and cafeteria staff how to properly prepare gluten-free meals.

For Nancy, helping NFCA secure the landmark FDA grant for our upcoming Gluten in Medications study was her biggest accomplishment. The $50,000 grant provides much-needed funding to pioneer this new area of celiac disease research, and NFCA is thrilled to be leading the charge!

Alice echoed Nancy’s sentiments about the FDA grant, as it was a huge milestone in NFCA history. Alice also named the Philadelphia Award as her top achievement in 2011. “This is one of the most prestigious awards in Philadelphia, and it brought front page coverage to the NFCA and celiac disease,” she noted.

For Alice, the award wasn’t an end result, but a jumping off point to bring even more awareness to celiac disease and gluten-free needs.


Kristin
pointed to the many collaborations and connections she formed in promoting NFCA’s Primary Care CME:

“In 2011, 306 U.S. primary care providers received training from NFCA’s Primary Care CME. Medical experts indicate that primary care physicians have the opportunity to diagnose 18 new patients per year. Based on this statistic, our records demonstrate that NFCA has had the opportunity to directly impact the lives of 5,508 patients. NFCA looks forward to continuing our professional education efforts in 2012,” she said.

Spreading the word about the CME involved a number of helpers in 2011. Quest Diagnostics disseminated more than 9,000 promotional postcards to primary care providers; individuals and support group leaders distributed 2,800 postcards to local healthcare professionals; and NFCA, along with physician advocates and celiac champions, sent 2,000 postcards to medical conference, clinics and lunch meetings extending as far as Hawaii and Norway!

Whitney cited her work with the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR) as her biggest accomplishment of 2011. She stepped up at a moment’s notice and flew to Asheville, NC, to lead a gluten-free training course for 25 foodservice professionals. More than 20 restaurants in this popular tourist destination are now GREAT-trained and ready to serve gluten-free food.

Kids Central

Kids Central - our new hub for gluten-free kids and parents

For me, Kids Central was my baby, and like a proud mama, I was happy to see it take flight in October. The new microsite accomplished much of what we originally set out to do, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of many, many friends in the celiac and gluten-free community. I’ve met wonderful parents, super kids and amazing teens who were willing to share their stories and gluten-free recipes. We’ll continue to add new articles and advice as we move into 2012. In fact, I’ll be posting our first Ask the Pediatric Gastroenterologist Q&As today!

Wishing a happy and healthy New Year to all of our friends and fans!

- Cheryl

December 30, 2011 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

Turning Celiac into Service

There’s a certain oomph that comes with having a personal connection to a cause. You dig deeper, work harder and never settle for mediocre. So, it’s no surprise that many of the successful gluten-free companies and organizations out there were founded by someone affected by celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Here’s just a sample of gluten-free entrepreneurs we work with through NFCA’s GREAT Business Association:

  • Craig Belser and Kevin Seplowitz over at Bard’s Beer are both diagnosed celiacs.
  • Vanessa Phillips, who has celiac disease, started Feel Good Foods with her chef husband, Tryg Siverson.
  • Simply Shari’s was founded by Shari Cole and her father, Larry Schneider. Larry has celiac disease, while Shari’s daughter has autism and showed an improvement in symptoms on a gluten-free diet.
  • Kettle Cuisine Founder & President Jerry Shafir brought gluten-free soups to grocery stores after his daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease.
  • Dick and Ju Reed started Chebe without the intention of marketing it as gluten-free. When Ju discovered she was intolerant to gluten, they reaffirmed their dedication to providing a natural and gluten-free product.
  • Jill Brack founded Glow Gluten Free after she and her daughter were diagnosed with celiac disease.

And then there’s Alice. Her enthusiasm and energy is so infectious that she caught the attention of Dr. David Ajibade, who runs Building Strength Webinars. He asked Alice to share her story and encourage others to take action like she did. The webinar, Turning Celiac into Service: Unleashing Your Passion and Life Purpose will take place next Thursday, Dec. 15, at 9pm ET. It’s free for all to attend.

Learn more and find the registration link on NFCA’s Webinars page.

If you have a story of turning celiac into service (or a business), submit your empowerment story to NFCA.

December 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm 1 comment

Off to Medical School: A Mom’s Day Out

I will never forget the day my husband, youngest daughter and I drove to Boston to drop my eldest daughter off at college 7 years ago; the day we sat with hundreds of parents at her graduation 3 years ago; or the day we put her on a plane as she headed off to Indonesia to work in Borneo 2 years ago.

Now, I’ll never forget driving to West Philadelphia for her medical school orientation.  After all these adventures, I thought I was prepared for this event. It was only around the corner, right?

Yes, around the corner physically, but emotionally it was a monumental occasion. I knew that attending  her White Coat Ceremony (a tradition in medical school orientation) would be memorable, but I had no idea how much it would mean to hear my child recite the Hippocratic Oath with her peers.  Every day, I work hard to educate physicians around the country about the signs and symptoms of celiac disease and ask them to be our partners in diagnosis and treatment.  Now, my own daughter is now going to be one of them. Wow!

Alice and Elizabeth at White Coat Ceremony

Me and my daughter at her White Coat Ceremony

What was this day like? It started off with a session that explained how grueling the first year of medical school can be, yet reassured parents that all of our kids will strike a balance.

I also got a chance to speak with the dean of the medical school (any chance to hand out my card and spread the word). She turned her head toward me and simply said, “Celiac disease; this disease certainly is receiving a lot of attention lately.”

We were then invited to spend some time as a medical school student.  This was fun! We watched standardized patient actors simulate different patient/physician scenarios, which was fascinating.  In one situation, the actor kept insisting that the physician give her a prescription. ”I want medicine,” she pleaded, even though she only had a virus! It truly hit home. In our case, there is no pill…at least not yet. So, we make ourselves better through diet and dedication.

After that, we checked out the robotic patient.  They asked for a couple of volunteers to assist with “surgery.”  Of course, I jumped right up (I am a learner at heart). My patient had a heart attack and I had to use the defibrillator.  No worries, he made it through.

Next, we headed to a room where we worked with partners on a project.  It was truly interesting because it taught us all about teamwork. Statistically, patients fare better in medical situations if they have a communicative team caring for them.  Lunch was next (gluten-free for me, of course).

Finally, after a number of speeches, we all had the chance to watch our sons and daughters receive their white coat and stethoscope. (Did you know that the length of the coat depicts your level  of schooling?)   I must say that watching my “baby” up on stage was a bit overwhelming.  My mother died of pancreatic cancer before I graduated from college. It changed my life. I too was headed to medical school, but changed my mind as I couldn’t bare the pain of spending time in the hospital. Looking back, I was always passionate about medicine, and now I’ve turned that passion into preventive medicine and raising awareness for celiac disease.

I can’t express how proud I was when Elizabeth took her oath.  And, thanks to getting properly diagnosed, I was there watching her.

- Alice

Want your doctor to be more informed about celiac disease? Learn how you can talk to them about NFCA’s free online course for physicians.

August 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

Celiac Disease, Functional Medicine, and an Event For All

I shuffled between five physicians (a mix of general practitioners and gastroenterologists) over the course of 4 1/2 years on my path to identifying the root cause of my fatigue and digestive distress. During this stretch of time, I left each doctor’s appointment feeling, for lack of a better word, compartmentalized. Each physician focused solely on my abdominal pain and discomfort, and couldn’t seem to connect all of the dots.

Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist

NFCAs Celiac Symptoms Checklist - Helping others find the cause!

After a revolving cycle of trial diets, medical tests and procedures, and still no diagnosis, I began to sort my days by how well I could manage my symptoms. How close to a bathroom do I need to be? Do I have enough energy to do this? Should I be wearing a loose-fitting shirt today? (No joke! My stomach would stay distended for days).

It became increasingly clear that my providers were treating my symptoms rather than the actual root cause of my symptoms.  Once I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I realized just how fitting this description truly was. Sure, my energy skyrocketed after I eliminated gluten from my lifestyle, but what I found most fascinating was that my gut was healing simultaneously.

One day, early in the game of getting to know the gluten-free diet, I stumbled upon functional medicine, an approach defined as: “personalized medicine that deals with primary prevention and underlying causes instead of symptoms for serious chronic disease.”

The idea of using the “patient’s story as a key tool” really spoke to me. I quickly became engrossed in reading anything I could get my hands on that discussed this patient-centered, whole-systems approach, and I have since remained just as interested.Should You Be Gluten-Free? Event

So you can imagine my excitement when Alice and I were introduced to Jill Shah, Founder and CEO of Jill’s List. An online directory, Jill’s List enables the health and wellness community to access the growing network of patients, practitioners and organizations in the field of Comprehensive Medicine. Read a Q&A about Jill’s List in NFCA’s April e-newsletter »

Our first phone call quickly turned into a brainstorm session of how Jill’s List and NFCA could work together, and in the weeks that followed, we put our ideas to paper.

The result: Should You Be Gluten-Free?, a live Q&A with celiac and gluten-free experts Dr. Mark Hyman, NY Times Best Selling Author and family physician; Jill Brack, Founder of Glow Gluten-Free Cookies; and Alice Bast, Founder and President of NFCA.

Join us on Wednesday, May 11th at 1pm EST as Jill Shah moderates a 60-minute discussion with these three panelists.All of us at NFCA are thrilled to have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and gluten-free at the center of what is sure to be a dynamic panel discussion.

With Jill’s List focusing on the “least invasive (yet effective) treatments for health conditions,” I couldn’t think of a better topic to join this repertoire of resources.

*To learn more about this event, see the listing in NFCA’s Upcoming Events»

-Kristin

April 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Adventures at Expo West…and an Ode to Bloggers

Eight years ago, I started the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to make “gluten-free” a household word.  Our goal was to raise awareness of celiac disease so we could have a voice:  increase availability, affordability, safety, tasty and understanding… and eventually fund research.

Well, the market for gluten-free foods has soared.  We are currently a $2.64 billion industry, and the marketplace is expected to double in the next 4 years.  15% of all consumers are looking for gluten-free foods, and at Expo West, gluten-free labels were EVERYWHERE!

Jillian Michaels at Expo West

Yep, that's fitness buff Jillian Michaels!

On the convention floor, I stood in amazement of the rows of gluten-free products. I didn’t know which way to turn. To the right for Rudi’s great gluten-free grilled cheese and chicken sandwiches; to the left to Glutenfreeda’s  fabulous new Pizza Wraps; down another aisle to Kettle Cuisine’s unbelievable Thai Curry Chicken Soup.  Haine Celestial’s booth was piled high with sections of gluten-free products.  I even found a new meal replacement protein drink called Svelte. It was heaven on earth.

Svelte

My new gluten-free find: Svelte!

All three gluten-free presentations were standing room only.  When I stepped down from the podium, people asked questions for a ½ hour.  They even followed me out the door.

At one point in the day, I was speaking with Anne Whalen, editor of Gluten Free Living, and renowned dietitian Shelley Case. We all agreed: Our time has come! We have all dreamt of this day, and it’s finally here.

Of course, this couldn’t have happened without the help of a very dedicated group: the bloggers. Thanks to their daily posts, rapid-fire tweets and enticing recipes, gluten-free has nestled into solid ground online and in stores.

Gluten-Free Bloggers

My "New York Crew" of gluten-free gals!

So, to the blogging community: Thank you for making a difference for all of us. Thank you for being such passionate advocates; we now have a voice!  We can and are bringing about change. Awareness and interest have driven the growth of gluten-free products, making our lives and the lives of others better.

Basically, you all rock! And I especially enjoyed spending time with you over the past couple weeks.

(Stay tuned to Celiac Central: Bits & Bites. These fantastic celiac and gluten-free bloggers will be making an appearance in May!)

-Alice

March 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm 1 comment

From Pizza Ovens to Capitol Hill: Celiac Awareness on the Move!

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease 17 years ago (by my dog’s vet, mind you), I had to order my food from Canada or purchase products at our support group meetings. Gluten-free foods were hard to come by, unless they were naturally gluten-free (eggs, milk, meat, veggies and the like).  It took me hours to shop; I wandered up and down the supermarket aisles, only to end up purchasing a few items.

Over the past several years, we at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and others have had the opportunity to work with Walmart, Wegmans, Wholefoods, Stop and Shop, ShopRite and Giant. Now, I walk up and down the aisles and just stare in amazement at the shelf tags calling out “Gluten-free!”  What a hoot…so life-altering.

The same was the case at restaurants. When I was first diagnosed, you’d think I was speaking another language when I asked the waiter if he or she knew what gluten-free was. The blank stare spoke volumes.

Even 5 or 6 years ago, if a fortune teller said that I would be speaking about Gluten-Free Foodservice Opportunities at the International Pizza Show, I would have thought she had a defective crystal ball. Yet there I was, just last week.

And this time, what happened in Vegas didn’t stay there.

Celiac Awareness at the International Pizza Expo

Had such a blast at the International Pizza Expo!

Our gluten-free presentation was noted in an industry article following the Pizza Expo. The article explained how offering gluten-free options can help a restaurant gain loyal customers from the celiac community. It was more proof that gluten-free has not only become mainstream, but is also here to stay.

Now, the message I really hoped to drive home during my presentation was how important it is to know what you’re doing when it comes to gluten-free preparation and serving. To all the pizza professionals and restaurateurs out there: Please do not advertise that you serve “gluten-free” unless you really practice proper protocols. Gluten-free food can be delicious, tempting, safe, and a good business opportunity – as long as it’s done right.

If that wasn’t enough action in a week, I attended the Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC) Policy Forum in Washington DC over the weekend. Three years ago, when I first landed in front of our nation’s representatives, their legislative assistant’s eyes glazed over at the words “celiac” and “gluten-free.”  Even more upsetting, the physician on my committee didn’t even know that celiac was so prevalent!

Last year, I was grouped with the same physician, and his entire attitude had changed.  At the time, he was diagnosing two patients per week and was excited to tell the celiac story.

Rep. Stephen Lynch

I got to speak with Rep. Stephen Lynch about celiac and gluten-free needs.

Today – get ready for this – that same physician has his daughter on a gluten-free diet, one of the legislative assistants has celiac, and another is getting her boyfriend tested.  They were interested and hungry to help. That’s progress!

What changes have you noticed that show progress in celiac and gluten-free awareness? I always love hearing success stories!

-Alice

March 10, 2011 at 10:26 am 1 comment

Defining “Gluten-Free”: What’s the Deal at FDA?

When I think back over the past 6 years in the celiac community, there are highs and lows.

The highs: We have seen great improvement in the variety and availability of gluten-free foods.  We can walk into our local supermarket and readily purchase gluten-free foods.  Gluten-free has been named the 8th largest food trend for 2011, an increase from its No. 9 position in 2010.

Now for the lows: The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has not established a standard to define the term “gluten-free,” so there’s always that bit of doubt about the safety of our food. But, let’s not get discouraged.

Let’s review a little history of allergy and food labeling. In 2002, the Food Standards Australia/New Zealand announced that “all food labels will show the declarations of the presence of potential allergens in foods, such as gluten, peanuts and other nuts, seafood, milk, wheat, eggs and soybeans. In addition, all foods containing genetically modified materials must be labeled as such.”

French Meadow Gluten-Free Products

Clear gluten-free labeling can help us feel confident about the foods we choose.

In 2005, the European Union required manufacturers to identify 12 common food allergens including: celery, dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, mustard, peanuts, sesame seeds, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat, and their derivatives.

On Jan. 1, 2006, the U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) went into effect. As a result, the presence of eight allergens including dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat are now declared on ingredient lists.

Since the inception of FALCPA, the FDA has been developing a definition for the term “gluten-free,” as there is currently no approved legislation for U.S. food manufacturers or consumers.  Once approved, labeling regulations will help U.S. consumers maintain a gluten-free diet by clearly designating which items are safe to eat, without confusion over potential cross-contamination. “As ordered by the FALCPA, a final rule on this definition was to be enacted by August 2008.”

So how’s the progress going?

On Jan. 23, 2007, the FDA published a proposed rule about defining the term “gluten-free.” The proposed rule included a 90-day public comment period, which ended on April 23, 2007. In addition to public comments, the proposed rule called for a safety assessment related to gluten exposure in individuals with celiac disease, which would help guide the development of a definition for “gluten-free.”

Fast forward to today. It’s more than 4 years later and here we sit, still waiting for the final word. The celiac and gluten-free community is frustrated, and rightly so. What is the hold up?   By establishing a U.S. definition for “gluten-free” and uniform conditions for the labeling of foods, the FDA will help ensure that persons purchasing U.S. products have accurate information. Shouldn’t this be a priority?

Fast & Fresh Gluten-Free Mix

What do you think should define "gluten-free"?

Bingo. In the midst of the blizzard that struck Philly a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Rhonda Kane, MS, RD, Consumer Safety Officer at the FDA. I asked her for the scoop.  Rhonda assured me that the FDA has been working diligently on a safety assessment related to gluten exposure and celiac disease. Once the report is finalized, FDA plans to share the safety assessment with the public and reopen a comment period so individuals can help decide how this assessment will be used in defining “gluten-free.”

So, that’s where we stand.

The public comment period has yet to be reopened, but I’d like to hear some opinions now. Keeping our families safe is top of mind for all celiac sufferers nationwide and worldwide, so let’s make this an ongoing discussion. What do you think should be included in the definition of “gluten-free”?

-Alice

February 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm 4 comments

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