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Health Alert: FDA Proposing Stricter Standards For Gluten Free Labels

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Many consumers are gearing up for new government standards when it comes to companies making gluten free claims. Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl is On Your Side with more.

It's become popular and profitable to sell products that are labeled gluten free, even when they're not. And for some, it's dangerous to their health. Now the FDA is preparing for stricter labeling, and that's a relief for people who are allergic to gluten.

Jennifer Shannon is a careful shopper, double checking labels to make sure the food she is buying is gluten free.

"If a company is going to sell me a product based on the fact that it's gluten free, I think they should be held accountable for it," said Jennifer.

Jennifer has celiac disease, an allergy to gluten, a protein found in common grains like wheat, rye and barley. If she eats foods with these ingredients, the reaction is unpleasant.

"Bloating, constipation, problems digesting food, numbing feeling in my extremities, a strange rash appeared," described Jennifer.

"I have a really strong intolerance to gluten, and if I eat it, I get really sick," said Erin McKenna, who is gluten intolerant.

Right now, the gluten free label on products is not regulated, but the FDA is in the process of changing that.

The agency is proposing that food makers will only be able to make the claim if a product contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This is encouraging for people like Jennifer.

"Gluten free food is the only medicine for celiac. It's the only thing available, and it's a cure essentially. It's how you heal yourself through eating, and so knowledge of what's in the food you're eating is very important," said Jennifer.

The new standard matches the one already in place in Europe and is expected to take effect early next year.
Right now the FDA is having a public comment period.

To submit a comment to the FDA or for more information on the proposed rule, click here.

Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS3

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