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'Gluten-free' label should be easier to trust as FDA sets standard

August 02, 2013|By Mary MacVean
  • The U.S. government has set a gluten-free standard for clearer food labeling: No more than 20 parts per million of gluten.
The U.S. government has set a gluten-free standard for clearer food labeling:… (Associated Press )

People who avoid gluten soon will have a federal standard behind gluten-free food labels.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday published a new regulation – eagerly awaited by those suffering from celiac disease – that defines the term “gluten-free.” Packages that carry that term can have no more than 20 parts per million of gluten.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that can be managed only by avoiding gluten. Even a bite of bread with gluten can make someone with celiac disease sick for a couple of weeks. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye.

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“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. “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.” 

Jessica Pantermuehl, who taught a class on gluten-free eating Thursday night at a Whole Foods store in Los Angeles, agreed that the new regulation will help consumers. She said many of her students were trying to figure out if a gluten-free diet might be helpful to them.

“It does make it much more user-friendly, which I think is great, to take food and take the concept of labels out of the science realm and into the place where all consumers can understand them,” said Pantermuehl, a certified holistic nutrition counselor and author.

That 20 ppm standard has been generally accepted by many food companies that use private certifications that they are gluten free. And the FDA notes that many companies already may meet the standard. Manufacturers have a year to bring their labels into compliance.

The regulation was published Friday in the Federal Register.


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