The gluten-free trend seemed to me to be a fad with natural limits and a definite lifespan, but like my belief GMOS's would eventually win the day, I seem to be badly mistaken. Proof: marketing vodka as gluten-free.
It's not just alcohol, of course. The new FDA label guidelines allow bottled water, vegetables and fruits to be labeled gluten-free even though these products do not naturally contain gluten. The FDA says gluten-free labeled products cannot contain any type of wheat, rye, barley or crossbreeds of these grains. The regulation also requires that the food does not contain an ingredient derived from these grains.The new labeling has created a marketing frenzy that may become a $6.2-billion gluten-free product industry by 2018, according to a 2013 report from research firm MarketsandMarkets. Some say the risk of cross-contamination warrants such broad labeling; others claim the FDA just made gluten-free living much more complicated.Although she is pleased with an FDA formal definition of gluten-free in labeling, Schluckebier notes the less than 20-ppm gluten allowance is likely to create an artificial sense of labeling security. A 2011 FDA report, “Health Hazard Assessment for Gluten Exposure in Individuals with Celiac Disease,” recommended the “most sensitive individuals with CD” eat foods with less than one-ppm gluten levels to protect them from “from experiencing any detrimental health effects from extended to long-term exposure to gluten.”But Taylor, for one, defends the FDA’s 20-ppm measure and assures celiac disease sufferers that there’s no risk in drinking distilled spirits. As he says: “the FDA and other public health agencies around the world have reviewed the evidence and concluded that products with less than 20-ppm gluten are safe for the vast majority of celiac sufferers.” [More]
The other lesson I learned is my skepticism that the complaints have any medical basis wither in the face of first-person confrontation with friends and family who have found their lives measurably improved by eliminating gluten. Hard to argue with that kind of data. Not socially smart either (see, I am learning).
While $6.2B is a big number, the total food and beverage market is a $1.4T market, so some context helps. But the range of gluten-free-products continues to grow.
Why has gluten-free eating gotten easier? The Food and Drug Administration recently defined what it takes for a food to qualify as gluten-free. Before their ruling, there were no federal standards or definitions for the food industry to use in labeling products "gluten-free." As one of the criteria for using the claim "gluten-free," FDA set a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry this label. This is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. Also, most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten. In addition to limiting the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 ppm, FDA allows manufacturers to label a food "gluten-free" if the food inherently doesn’t have any gluten such as bottled water, fruit, vegetables and eggs.This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards. While most products are accurately labeled, there is an estimated 5 percent of foods currently labeled "gluten-free" that contain 20 ppm or more of gluten. These manufacturers that want to use the phrase on their products must adhere to the strict guidelines. They will have until August 2014 to comply with the new regulations. [More]
The bigger issue here could be the impetus this gives to good labeling of all kinds. It's not hard to see a kind of "if it's good for gluten, then why not X" becoming the norm as retailers and manufacturers find there is market share gold in the fine print.
All this reinforces my feeling that GMO labeling will happen in some way or other eventually. That's a pretty vague prediction, of course, but it would take a popular tide reversal to change the inevitability of disclosure. I don't think Monsanto, et al, can spend enough to prevent it occurring.