New Legislation Seeks Comprehensive Gluten Labeling to Aid Pennsylvanians with Celiac Disease

CapitolCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

HARRISBURG, PA — Senator Amanda M. Cappelletti (D-Montgomery/Delaware) and Representative Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery) introduced legislation this week aimed at providing crucial support for Pennsylvanians with Celiac Disease and gluten intolerances. The proposed measures, Senate Bills 1166 and 1167 and House Bills 2122 and 2120, require proper labeling of food and medicine products containing gluten in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 2122 amends Title 3 (Agriculture) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to mandate clear labeling of food products containing gluten-containing grains. House Bill 2120 seeks to amend the Act of April 14, 1972, enhancing definitions and misbranding regulations for drugs, devices, and cosmetics to include gluten labeling requirements.

“A Celiac diagnosis is an extraordinary challenge for any family, and not all families have the resources to afford or pay such close attention to living a gluten-free lifestyle,” said Senator Cappelletti. “If enacted, these bills will make it much easier for Pennsylvanians with Celiac and gluten intolerances to discern what they can and cannot consume.”

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where consuming gluten damages the small intestine. Symptoms can vary widely, including diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, and brain fog. Representative Daley pointed out that current federal laws only mandate labeling for food products containing wheat, neglecting other gluten-containing grains like barley, oats, and rye.

“Without properly labeling all products that contain gluten, we are placing many of our fellow citizens at risk,” Daley stated.

An estimated 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population, has Celiac Disease. However, recent studies suggest the prevalence might be higher. More than 87 countries, including members of the European Union, Canada, and Australia, already mandate gluten labeling on food products.

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“Recurrent exposures to gluten may even increase your long-term risk of conditions like osteoporosis, anemia, and even certain cancers, like lymphoma,” explained Dr. Arunjot Singh, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Co-Director at the Center for Celiac Disease at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “Whether it’s food items at a grocery store or medication at the pharmacy, this is the daily stress that we see our families go through as they navigate a world where gluten-free labeling is inadequate.”

The new legislation aims to alleviate the burdens faced by those managing Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivities by ensuring clearer and more comprehensive labeling standards. This move could significantly impact public health, particularly for individuals who must adhere strictly to a gluten-free diet to avoid serious health complications.

Beyond Celiac, an advocacy organization, reports that nearly half of individuals with Celiac Disease have sacrificed life experiences because of their dietary restrictions. Additionally, 49% of children with Celiac Disease exhibit anxiety related to social interactions, physical symptoms, and excessive worry.

The implications of this legislation extend beyond individual health. By mandating comprehensive labeling, the bills would empower consumers to make safer food and medication choices, potentially reducing accidental gluten exposure. This could alleviate some of the daily stress experienced by those with Celiac Disease, improving their quality of life and overall well-being.

Furthermore, this initiative could serve as a model for other states, promoting broader adoption of stringent gluten labeling laws across the United States. Clearer labeling would not only help individuals manage their health more effectively but also raise awareness about the challenges faced by those with Celiac Disease.

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In summary, the introduction of Senate Bills 1166 and 1167 and House Bills 2122 and 2120 marks a significant step towards better supporting Pennsylvanians with Celiac Disease and gluten intolerances. By advocating for comprehensive labeling, lawmakers aim to create a safer, more inclusive environment for these individuals, enhancing their quality of life and fostering a more informed consumer base.

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