The agency, under pressure from the gluten-free community, had said final approval would likely come by September 30. That deadline became a little less likely months ago when a presidential budget proposal seemed to move action to the end of the year.
Today, an FDA representative told me the agency is working to publish a final rule as soon as possible.
The FDA received about 2,000 new comments last year when it once again asked consumers, food makers, support groups and medical and gluten-free testing experts to weigh in on proposed rules that were supposed to be passed by 2008.
Comments now being considered by the FDA touch on many issues, including important questions about how to detect gluten in food. The FDA says the gluten-free definition remains "a high priority."
"If a petition on the website gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response," the website says. A petition has to get 25,000 signatures within 30 days to trigger review. You can read more about the gluten-free labeling petition on the American Celiac Disease Alliance website.
A strong push for FDA action came last year when 1in133, a grassroots group, drew attention to the long ignored gluten-free labeling proposal by building the world's tallest gluten-free cake at an event in Washington, D.C. Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner, promised to "get it done."
The FDA then reopened public comment, saying it was looking for information on any new developments in research or testing that might impact a final gluten-free labeling law.
Currently there is no precise definition for the gluten-free label aside from a general requirement that food labels have to be truthful. Wheat, barley and rye cannot be used as an ingredients in foods labeled gluten-free. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act directed the FDA to come up with better definition. In 2007, the agency proposed less than 20 parts per million of gluten from any source, including cross-contamination, as a standard for foods labeled gluten free. But progress then stalled until it was kick-started by 1in133.
It's still hard to say for certain when labeling rules will finally be passed. But it's pretty clear it's important to make your voice heard and the petition is one way to do that.