After more than four years of no action by the Food and Drug Administration, Washington, D.C., on the statutory requirement to finalize standards for gluten-free labeling on foods, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Patrick Leahy sent a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg seeking answers for the long delay and an update on when the FDA will propose a final rule.

Rules for gluten labeling were included as part of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, and the FDA was tasked with proposing such rules within two years of enactment and finalizing rules within four. But when the FDA issued its proposed rule in January 2007, no final rule has been promulgated or issued since. Wyden and Leahy raise concerns about the lack of federal standards for what could be counted as “gluten free,” which has caused confusion for consumers and agricultural producers leaving outside groups free to create their own standards.

For many, gluten-free products are a dietary alternative to bread-based products, but for those suffering from celiac disease, having accurate and standard labeling for these products is essential. Celiac disease is a painful disorder that stems from the inability to properly digest the gluten found in breads.