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How to Log a Consumer Complaint with the FDA
As we wait, and wait, and wait for a final rule on gluten-free labeling regulations, there’s one thing we haven’t considered: Once regulations are in place, how the heck do we report offenders?
We’ve all been glutened by a food product at one point or another. And inevitably, it will happen even after gluten-free regulations are in place. At that point, we will be able to do something about it.
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that food manufacturers indicate if a product contains any of the top eight food allergens. Wheat is on that list; gluten is not. Consumers who have an adverse reaction to a product can report it to the FDA.
According to the FDA website, each state has a Consumer Complaint Coordinator and a designated number to call to log a complaint (telephone numbers are listed on the webpage). When you call, be prepared with the product package in hand. That way, you can answer any questions regarding the product name, lot number or labeling.
I recently spoke with Rhonda Kane, MS, RD, Consumer Safety Officer at the FDA, who explained that when the FDA receives a complaint about a product or manufacturer concerning gluten, food allergens, as well as other issues, the agency is alerted to a potential problem and will take appropriate action. This could include anything from an immediate investigation and follow-up inspection, to a routine follow-up inspection or investigation, to a decision to monitor the firm for further complaints. When a manufacturer is found to be in violation of FDA good manufacturing practices or food safety and labeling laws, the agency has the authority to take action. The type of action FDA takes will depend on the seriousness of the problem, if this is a first or repeated violation, whether there was willful intent to violate the regulations or laws FDA enforces, and other factors, as they apply.
When gluten-free regulations are instituted, Rhonda added, the FDA will follow the same protocol for complaints. Consumers may notify FDA about potential problems, such as when consumers believe an FDA-regulated product is labeled as “gluten-free” when it is not. If such a violation is confirmed, a firm may be subject to FDA enforcement action.
In addition to consumer complaints, the FDA has three other ways to spot irresponsible and illegal manufacturing practices:
So, while there will be others keeping a lookout, you, I, and our community can play a huge role as watchdog…but only afterthe FDA finalizes its definition of “gluten-free” (which is expected to happen by the end of 2012).
Consumer complaints have great power, but the FDA shouldn’t be the only number you call. Take it a step further and call the manufacturer’s consumer hotline to notify them about your adverse reaction. It may prompt them to take action on their own.
How to Plan Your Gluten-Free Child’s Hospital Stay
By Miranda Jade Turbin
Despite the growing awareness of celiac disease, your celiac child can’t be guaranteed safe gluten-free food options in hospitals, making it necessary to take certain precautions and special arrangements when planning your celiac child’s hospital stay. With planning and clear communication with hospital staff, your child’s stay should go smoothly.
First off, get a note from your child’s doctor ordering the gluten-free diet. Before your child’s stay, set a meeting with the head dietician, head nurse, and staff from the different departments involved in your child’s stay, such as the pharmacy, surgery, etc. Explain to the staff that your child cannot consume anyamount of gluten. Labeling is critical. Have your child wear an allergy alert wristband. See if you can bring in large labels for your child’s chart and near the hospital bed.
Bring as many gluten-free foods, condiments, toiletries, and other necessary items for your child as possible. Everything should be clearly labeled with your child’s full name and hospital room number.
It may be possible to have the hospital’s dietary department order special gluten-free foods and mixes before your child’s stay, or you may be able to provide your own. Double-check with staff that every “gluten-free” meal your child receives is actually gluten-free. [NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program can train hospital staff on proper gluten-free protocols. Encourage staff to visit www.CeliacLearning.com/kitchens or contact [email protected] for more information.]
Celinal Foods, Inc. sells a Gluten-Free Be Ready Kit, which includes menus, single-serve foods and mixes, tray cards, and instructional materials for kitchen staff. My Own Meals, Inc. sells gluten-free Glatt Kosher ready-to-heat meals, which can be purchased by your child’s hospital to provide gluten-free options for your celiac child.
A common theme in helping celiac children deal with most of the challenges of the gluten-free diet is the importance of planning and communication. With these, your child’s visit to the hospital is much more likely to be a safe, gluten-free one.
Here’s a recipe to treat your celiac or gluten sensitive child after their stay:
About Miranda Jade Turbin
Miranda Jade Turbin became extremely interested and involved in the subjects of celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and gluten issues a number of years ago, after being diagnosed as celiac after many years of unresolved troubles. Since then, she has engaged in diligent research and writing about these topics, developing gluten-free recipes and reviewing companies for celiac consumer safety at the award-winning website: GlutenFreeHelp.info.
Gluten-Free Recipes for a Happy Valentine’s Day
By Chef Oonagh Williams
BEET AND ORANGE SALAD
SHRIMP & SCALLOPS WITH MIXED BELL PEPPERS AND MUSHROOM CREAM SAUCE
TOBLERONE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
British-born award-winning chef Oonagh Williams has a culinary arts degree and was trained in London and Switzerland. Based in New Hampshire, Chef Oonagh began adapting meals to gluten-free versions after her son was diagnosed with gluten and lactose intolerance two years ago. To learn more, visit Chef Oonagh’s website at RoyalTemptations.com or ‘Like’ her at Gluten Free Cooking with Oonagh on Facebook.
NFCA thanks everyone in the celiac and gluten sensitive community who has already completed the Gluten in Medications Survey . Because of your efforts, this critical study is making progress.
If you have not yet taken the survey, please take a few minutes to do so. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for this survey, please send them the link. The success of this study depends on gathering enough responses, so please help us share this important news!
To learn more about the need for this study, listen to this radio interview with Dr. Robert Mangione, one of the study’s co-primary investigators:
The Acai Berry: A Nutritious Exotic Fruit
By Gini Warner, Clinical Nutritionist
The acai berry is an inch-long reddish, purple fruit. It comes from the acai palm tree which is native to Central and South America.
The acai berry contains bioflavanoids. Bioflavonoids are powerful antioxidants that help defend the body against life’s stressors. They also play a role in the body’s cell protection system. Free radicals are harmful byproducts produced by the body. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants may interfere with aging and the disease process by neutralizing free radicals.By lessening the destructive power of free radicals, antioxidants may help reduce the risk of some diseases, such as heart disease.
The best way to enjoy the acai berry is to eat it in its fresh, raw, fruit form. The problem though is that this option is not always available and is slightly more expensive than other products. Therefore, many consumers have no other option but to stick with the ready-to-drink varieties.
The good thing about the juice form is that it can be a pure extract of the berry, which leaves all its benefits from nutrients. Smoothies are good alternatives to the juice. Smoothies can be bought as a prepackaged drink, or they can be made at home. To save on cost, a homemade smoothie is much more preferable since the drink often commands hefty price tags in restaurants and health bars.
The acai berry, like all fresh fruit, is naturally gluten-free and makes a perfectly healthy snack or beverage.
About Gini Warner:
Gini Warner completed her master’s degree in Health Education and Nutritional Science at New York University in 1988 and has been working with families, individuals and corporations in the fields of celiac disease, immune dysfunction, diabetes, and more. She has been a practicing nutritional counselor for more than 20 years. Gini recently co-authored The Gluten-Free Edge.
By Dan Kohler of Renegade Kitchen
Gluten-Free Amaranth and Black Bean Salad
Let’s be honest, quinoa gets all the attention. I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere along the line people decided it was the fancy ancient grain. And it is great, but it’s got some competition. Amaranth, say hello.
Amaranth is a much smaller grain and cooks up like porridge. It’s super high in protein, super high in fiber and completely gluten-free. Make a big batch of this salad and keep it in the fridge at your office. You’ll have lunch all week with nary a sandwich in sight.
Recipe will be posted Monday, Feb. 6: Recipe of the Week
Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
Kids running around like lunatics? Need a little something to keep them still for a minute? Make a double batch of these muffins and keep them in the freezer. When you’re in a crunch for a quick snack, pop a few in your toaster oven and your kids will get the message. Snack time is a state of mind, and while your kids are munching on the muffins you might be able to take that mental break you’ve been craving.
Or you can just chow down on a few muffins yourself. We all deserve snack time.
NEW! Win a one-on-one consultation with Dan. Take the Alternative Appetites Cooking Challenge »
What’s an Adzuki bean? Should I buy rice milk or almond milk? What can I do with leftover gluten-free chicken broth? These cooking quandaries and more will be answered as NFCA celebrates the “Thrill of the Choice.”
Sponsored by The Hain Celestial Group Inc., this series of articles takes a look at some gluten-free items in your grocery store that are worth a second look. From cooking with amaranth, to new uses for chocolate chips, these articles will encourage you to freshen up your grocery list.
In addition to the articles, we’ll be giving away a special gluten-free prize pack valued at $100 , courtesy of The Hain Celestial Group Inc. Visit our Thrill of the Choice webpage to learn how to enter:
While you’re at it, pop by The Hain Celestial Group’s new and improved website at GlutenFreeChoices.com. There, you’ll find all of their gluten-free products, plus recipes that put those items to use.
NFCA has partnered with Allergic Living, a print magazine dedicated to the celiac and food allergy communities. Each month, we’ll feature a Q&A, news item or article from theAllergic Living team.
Actor Dean McDermott is best known for his real-life role as actress Tori Spelling’s husband and as the co-star of the reality TV show: “Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood .”
But as he recently explained to Allergic Living magazine, McDermott is also adapting to a new role: living life with celiac disease.
Allergic Living: When were you diagnosed?
Dean McDermott: About a year and a half ago. I was complaining to my endocrinologist – I’m hypothyroid – about lethargy and dark circles under my eyes.
She said, “Maybe you’re not absorbing nutrients properly.”
I had a blood test and an endoscopy, and both were positive for celiac. Luckily, I don’t get the pain or bloating that some people get.
AL: Was it hard to cut gluten out of your diet?
DM: I did it slowly. At first I was eating gluten-free about 50 percent of the time. So that was easy. It helps that there are so many gluten-free products available now.
I do have cravings, though. I’m in culinary school right now, and just last night we made chocolate éclairs, cheese puffs and cheesecake, and we’ve also been making bread and biscuits.
It’s right in front of my face! And I actually do have to sample it so I know what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong.
AL: Yikes! Celiac experts strongly advise going 100 percent gluten-free following a celiac diagnosis. What does your doctor say about eating a bit of gluten occasionally?
DM: Because I’m on the lower spectrum of it, she’s not terribly concerned. But I definitely feel better when I’m gluten-free.*
*Note: Allergic Living often profiles famous people with celiac disease, and describes how they are doing with control. While the magazine commends Dean McDermott for raising awareness about celiac disease, the editors and NFCA remind you that gastroenterologists, dietitians and other celiac experts advise going 100% gluten-free following diagnosis.
Gluten exposure, over a long term, can do damage to the intestines or can lead to osteoporosis and other related health conditions, even if the person with celiac disease does not feel symptoms.
AL: Have you created any gluten-free masterpieces at culinary school?
DM: I’m experimenting with flour substitutes. There’s so much flour in French cooking, so I’m trying different things, like ground chickpeas and potato starch.
AL: How do you avoid eating gluten when you’re filming or at press events?
DM: People know that I have celiac disease, so they provide gluten-free stuff for me. My publicist lets them know in advance. I find more and more people are aware of celiac disease, the same way more people know about anaphylactic shock to peanuts.
It can be hard, though. Gluten is used as a thickening agent in sauces and spreads. Unfortunately, I’ve been gluten-bombed many times.
For the rest of the interview, in which Dean discusses plans for a gluten-free restaurant and related entrepreneurial ideas, more celiac features, plus gluten-free recipes, get the Winter edition of Allergic Living magazine.
“You Did It!” is a new section of NFCA’s newsletter where we’ll share stories and advice from NFCA volunteers. We hope these articles will inspire you to take action and say “I did it!” today. For more volunteer stories, see NFCA’s Awareness All-Stars blog.
NFCA would like to give a special shout out to our Awareness All-Stars fundraisers. These kids and teens created their own online fundraising pages to raise awareness of celiac disease and raise money for NFCA. In total, they raised $8,985. Wow!
We interviewed the top 3 fundraisers (We call them our Awareness MVPs) to learn why they decided to help the cause. You can read about them and listen to clips from our audio interviews on Kids Central.
Thank you to all of our Awareness All-Stars:
Join the conversation on Twitter: Follow NFCA at @CeliacAwareness
Free Webinar: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. ET