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New legislation seeks expanded gluten labeling to help Pennsylvanians with celiac disease

HARRISBURG, PA – Senator Amanda M. Cappelletti (D-Montgomery/Delaware) and Representative Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery) introduced legislation this week aimed at providing critical support to Pennsylvanians with celiac disease and gluten intolerances. The proposed measures, Senate Bills 1166 and 1167 and House Bills 2122 and 2120, would require proper labeling of food and drug products containing gluten in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 2122 amends Title 3 (Agriculture) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to require clear labeling of food products containing gluten-containing grains. House Bill 2120 aims to amend the law of April 14, 1972, by improving the definitions and misbranding rules for drugs, devices and cosmetics to include gluten labeling requirements.

“A diagnosis of celiac disease is an extraordinary challenge for any family, and not all families have the resources to afford or devote as much attention to a gluten-free lifestyle,” said Senator Cappelletti. “If passed, these bills will make it much easier for Pennsylvanians with celiac disease and gluten intolerances to distinguish what they can and cannot consume.”

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which 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 require labeling for food products containing wheat, neglecting other gluten-containing grains such as barley, oats, and rye.

“Without properly labeling all products containing gluten, we are putting many of our fellow citizens at risk,” Daley said.

It is estimated that 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population, has celiac disease. However, recent studies suggest that the prevalence may be higher. More than 87 countries, including members of the European Union, Canada and Australia, already require gluten labeling on food products.

“Repeated exposure to gluten can actually increase the long-term risk of conditions like osteoporosis, anemia and even certain cancers such as lymphoma,” explains Dr. Arunjot Singh, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics and co-director of the Center for Celiac Disease. at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “Whether it’s food at the grocery store or medications at the pharmacy, this is the daily stress 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 providing clearer and more comprehensive labeling standards. This move could have a significant impact on public health, especially for individuals who must strictly adhere to a gluten-free diet to avoid serious health complications.

Beyond Celiac, an advocacy group, reports that nearly half of people 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 allow consumers to make safer food and medication choices, potentially reducing accidental exposure to gluten. This could alleviate some of the daily stress that people with celiac disease experience, improving their quality of life and overall well-being.

Additionally, this initiative could serve as a model for other states by promoting broader acceptance of strict gluten labeling laws in the United States. Clearer labeling would not only help people manage their health more effectively, but also raise awareness of the challenges faced by people with celiac disease.

In summary, the introduction of Senate Bills 1166 and 1167 and House Bills 2122 and 2120 marks an important step toward 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, improve their quality of life and promote a more informed consumer base.

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