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Published On: Sat, Aug 3rd, 2013

FDA standardizes ‘gluten-free’ for food labeling

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published new rules Friday defining exactly what “gluten-free” means on a food label, providing a standard definition to help the up to 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can only be effectively managed only by eating a gluten free diet.

Photograph of 4 gluten sources. Top: High-gluten wheat flour. Right: European spelt. Bottom: Barley. Left: Rolled rye flakes. Image/Pdeitiker

Photograph of 4 gluten sources. Top: High-gluten wheat flour. Right: European spelt. Bottom: Barley. Left: Rolled rye flakes.
Image/Pdeitiker

The standard, which the FDA has been working on for six years, sets a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry the “gluten free” label.

The federal agency says  this is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. Also, most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten. This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards.

The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health.”

This standard ‘gluten-free’ definition will eliminate uncertainty about how food producers label their products and will assure people with celiac disease that foods labeled ‘gluten-free’ meet a clear standard established and enforced by FDA,” says Michael R. Taylor, J.D., deputy FDA commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, notes that there is no cure for celiac disease and the only way to manage the disease is dietary—not eating gluten. Without a legal definition of “gluten-free,” these consumers could never really be sure if their body would tolerate a food with that label, she adds.

“This is a tool that has been desperately needed,” Levario says. “It keeps food safe for this population, gives them the tools they need to manage their health, and obviously has long-term benefits for them.”

The regulation will be published Aug. 5, 2013 in the Federal Register. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.

Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in wheat, rye and barley.

In people with celiac disease, foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. Such damage limits the ability of celiac disease patients to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other very serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature, and intestinal cancers.

 

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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