It’s been a long six years, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally set regulations for foods labeled as “gluten free.” Previously, the term was not regulated and manufacturers made their own decisions about what the term means. That is finally over, and the term “gluten free” will now mean the same thing for all foods.
The FDA announced that the term may appear on foods that contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten. This rule also applies to foods labeled as “no gluten,” “without gluten,” and “free of gluten.” Though this decision means foods labeled as gluten free don’t have to be free of all wheat, rye, barley, and their derivatives, the medical community has reported that foods containing fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten are suitable for individuals with celiac disease to eat without getting sick.
For those who don’t know, celiac disease affects 3 million Americans. The disease prevents them from absorbing nutrients well, and eating the gluten found in wheat and other grains can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Those affected can also experience fatigue, weight loss, rashes, and other long-term medical problems.
The FDA has given manufacturers one year to comply but has urged faster compliance. The regulations will be of great benefit to individuals with celiac disease by enabling them to make more-informed food choices. Andrea Levario of the American Celiac Disease Alliance said that for people who have celiac disease, grocery shopping can be like playing Russian roulette because so many packaged foods contain hidden ingredients, like rye and barley.
The new regulations will also help eliminate confusion for other individuals who choose to eat gluten-free foods. Further, manufacturers will receive fewer phone calls from people seeking clarification on whether certain products contain gluten.
Many people have waited a long time for regulations on labeling food as gluten free. The FDA’s deputy commissioner for food, Michael Taylor, attributed the delay to the desire “to do a careful scientific assessment of the data and the range of sensitivities.” Those with celiac disease and other gluten intolerances can now feel more confident in their grocery shopping.
What do you think of the new standards for the “gluten free” label?