‘Gluten-Free’ Labeling

‘Gluten-Free’! What does it REALLY mean?
Gluten Free Labels

Before August 5, 2014, the term ‘gluten-free’ had not been regulated. Manufacturers were making their own call about what ‘gluten-free’ meant. Now, there is a real meaning behind ‘gluten-free’ labels established by the FDA.

For those who struggle with severe gluten intolerance, this is a great change in labeling standards. An autoimmune disordered called celiac disease that can occur in people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Before the FDA’s new guidelines people with this disease could get sick from gluten in products labeled “gluten-free”.

Now the FDA requires products labeled “gluten-free” to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This ensures that products are free of wheat, rye and barley before being labeled “gluten-free”. Before, wheat had to be labeled on food packages, but barley and rye were often hidden ingredients – often dangerous to those with celiac disease.

According the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, under the new FDA rule if a product has a gluten-free claim, it either:

  • Inherently does not contain gluten.

Or the following is true:

  • Does not contain an ingredient that is a whole, gluten-containing grain such as wheat, barley, rye or crossbred hybrids of these grains.
  • Does not contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and has not been processed to remove gluten such as wheat flour.
  • May contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten such as wheat starch, as long as the food product contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

Millions of people are buying foods that are labeled “gluten-free” even if they don’t have the celiac disease. The awareness of this disease has created an increase of options in grocery stores. According to an article in The Hill, “this standard ’gluten-free’ definition eliminates uncertainty about how food producers label their products,” said Felicia Billingslea, director of FDA’s division of food labeling and standards. “People with celiac disease can rest assured that foods labeled ‘gluten-free’ meet a clear standard established and enforced by the FDA.”