[Photo credit: U.S. Dept of Agriculture]

Recently, there have been a number of historic advancements in the U.S. that will greatly increase the safety of individuals living gluten free and allergy free.  These will also have a huge positive impact on schools, restaurants, travel providers, food service establishments and manufacturers.

First, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the U.S. Gluten-Free Labeling Regulation in August 2013, which officially sets the safety standard to label U.S. products gluten-free if they contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten.

The U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2006 (FALCPA) required the labeling of the top eight food allergens including wheat, milk, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and crustacean shellfish but did not include gluten. This long-awaited labeling law assures consumers and businesses that all products labeled gluten-free in the United States will now follow standard government guidelines.

The new FDA standard is also consistent with the Codex Alimentarius labeling guidelines set by the World Health Organization. The United States, with an estimated $6.6 billion in gluten free product sales by 2017 accordingly to Packaged Facts research, joins the ranks of several major countries around the world that have adopted similar gluten-free standards including the European Union and Canada.

In this ever-expanding marketplace, food manufacturers are encouraged to adopt the new gluten-free standard immediately, although they have until August 2014 to come into compliance.

Second, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act was signed by President Obama in November 2013. This is the first federal law encouraging states to require schools to keep lifesaving epinephrine auto-injectors on hand for use in allergic emergencies for students with anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction which can occur within seconds or minutes when exposed to an allergen (e.g. foods such as peanuts, or the venom from a bee sting). Immediate use of epinephrine is the standard-of-care for children and adults at the first sign of a severe allergic reaction, which can involve one or more symptoms of the skin, mouth, eyes, lungs, heart, gut and brain.

According to a new landmark study, Anaphylaxis in America by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, anaphylaxis likely occurs in nearly 1-in-50 Americans (1.6%) and probably higher.

This legislation empowers trained school personnel to save lives by requiring that this important medication is available to any student with anaphylaxis. It also serves as a catalyst for states to recognize the need for schools to stock undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors.  In addition, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act incentivizes states to adopt the law by giving these states preference in eligibility for federal asthma education grants.

Third, based on 6 years of research, quality assurance review and focus group testing, the new 2014 book, Let’s Eat Out  Around the World Gluten Free and Allergy Free (published by Demos Health), empowers individuals and businesses alike about safe eating in ethnic restaurants around the corner or across the globe.  The pioneering series of books, eBooks and mobile apps, created by Gluten and Allergy Free Passport identify ingredients, food preparation, hidden allergens and cross-contact considerations in seven ethnic cuisines to ensure safety in restaurants at home or abroad.

Similar to the FALCPA legislature, these resources detail how to avoid the top eight food allergens in the U.S.  including wheat, dairy, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and crustacean shellfish as well as gluten and corn. Let’s Eat Out also helps to educate and protect those individuals dealing with anaphylaxis, food allergies, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, food intolerances and gluten free diets when dining out and traveling.

All three of these tremendous improvements are significant milestones for the U.S. and the global gluten free and allergy free communities!