Tim Lawson has always boasted of close connections with politicians ranging from legislators to his friend Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. Now, the corporate-fixer-turned-gluten-free baker is looking to get the attention of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, by suing him in a civil suit for defunding the Food and Drug Administration in a way he says will jeopardize millions of Americans who suffer from Celiac’s disease.
In an impromptu press conference Thursday, Lawson explained that the lawsuit was targeted at Hatch for underfunding the FDA’s ability to test gluten levels in foods. Currently, the FDA is proposing to adopt a label used in Europe that would allow food to be labeled “Gluten Free” if it contains 20 parts per million gluten. For the roughly 9 million Americans who suffer from Celiac’s like Lawson, even those levels are enough to trigger potentially life-threatening reactions.
“With Celiac, some people are genetically unable to process gluten in their diet that causes an autoimmune response,” Lawson says. “The body -- for a lack of a better way of putting it -- starts attacking itself.” Lawson knows firsthand, as he suffers from the disease himself, while five of his seven children are gluten intolerant. In recent years, Lawson has opened New Grains, a gluten-free bakery with his wife, and has become a board member of the national Celiac Sprue Association.
He says that Hatch’s failed to do his duty as a Senator on the Human Health and Services Appropriations Committee by failing to fund the FDA to be able to conduct adequate testing of food for gluten. The lawsuit seeks relief in the form of “damages in the amount necessary to properly fund the FDA so that products labeled gluten free do not contain dangerous amounts of gluten.”
“Politicians by nature don’t understand proportions -- they have one mouth and two ears so they should start using them proportionally,” Lawson says. “If he cared at all about the Celiac community, he would pull his head out of his ass instead of sitting up there thinking he’s the kingpin.”
For more information about the lawsuit or for information about Celiac and gluten-intolerance resources, visit Lawson’s blog here.