FDA labels “gluten-free”

The push for a standard definition for the term “gluten-free” has been spurred by an increase in the number of people diagnosed with celiac disease over the past few years.

The push for a standard definition for the term “gluten-free” has been spurred by an increase in the number of people diagnosed with celiac disease over the past few years.

by Mary Budinger — 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued the first standards for what food companies can label as “gluten-free.” Until now, manufacturers have been able to use their own discretion as to how much gluten they include.

Gluten-free products will have to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough that most people who have celiac disease will not get sick if they consume it.

The push for a standard definition for the term “gluten-free” has been spurred by an increase in the number of people diagnosed with celiac disease over the past few years. Celiac disease prevents a person from being able to absorb nutrients after eating gluten. An estimated 1 percent of Americans are thought to have the condition, although 83 percent of cases currently go undiagnosed.

People who suffer from celiac disease do not absorb nutrients well and can get sick from the gluten found in wheat and other cereal grains. Other countries already have similar standards.

The rule would also ensure that foods with the labels “no gluten,” “free of gluten” and “without gluten” meet the definition. Manufacturers will have a year to comply, but the FDA is urging companies to meet the requirement sooner.

The FDA said it chose 20 ppm rather than 0 ppm as the limit because current scientific methods cannot detect levels of gluten below 20 ppm. The amount of 20 ppm of gluten in food can be visualized by picturing two grains of salt in a piece of bread.

Source:  Food Safety News.

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about integrative medicine.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 5, October/November 2013.

 

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