PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – What do you do if you or your child needs a special diet for a medical condition?

Most people rely on food labels, but what if those labels aren’t regulated?

Years of constipation, chronic weight loss and no appetite is what second grader Joshua Piccolo was dealing with.

After a blood test and a sample of his upper intestine, he was diagnosed with celiac disease.

Two days before school started, he was diagnosed with the condition. It does not allow hit body to process a protein found in wheat products called gluten.

Suddenly, the family had to change its diet.

“It was like walking into the grocery store for the first time. I had no idea what to buy. I had to read every label and my first shopping trip took nearly three hours, just reading all the labels,” April Piccolo said. “The convenience is gone. You can’t just pick up and say, ‘I’m just [going to] get take out tonight.’”

She always packs his lunch now. As it turns out, he’s the envy of the lunch room.

“They say, ‘Oh that looks so good, can i have some?’ I just say, ‘No, I have my diet,’” Joshua Piccolo said.

April looks for special ingredients and products to stock the pantry.

“When I go the grocery store, I clearly look for things that are labeled gluten-free. It makes me feel really comfortable knowing it has that label, and that it is gluten-free,” April said.

The problem is, what constitutes gluten-free has not been regulated by the FDA yet.

The FDA wants to make the term gluten-free an indication of less than 20 parts per million. Regulations could be in place by next year.

“Independent testing has actually shown the majority of food companies out there, who are producing gluten-free foods, are actually producing them with gluten levels that are far below the proposed standards. So, they are actually very safe,” Childrens Hospital Dietician Stacey Zettle aid.

A dietician can help you look at the ingredient label to figure out if a product contains gluten.

“I would love for there to be a very strict mandate on it, because I could reach for something, knowing that he is not ingesting too much that could potentially make him sick,” April said.

If put in place, the FDA would use similar standards for gluten levels used in Canada and Europe.


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