The American Journal of Gastroenterology recently found that the prevalence of Celiac Disease in America affects every 1 in 141 people. This past spring we featured a blog post explaining the ins and outs of the gluten-free diet. We touched on Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, and the false idea that gluten-free automatically means weight loss. Now that we all have a better understanding of the gluten-free world, we have some great news to share! Earlier this month, the FDA made great strides in the gluten-free community by officially defining a standard that will apply to foods bearing the gluten-free label.
What Will This Mean? Let’s Get To The Good Stuff!
Gluten-free labeling has been a bit of a free-for-all over the past few decades. Meaning there was little to no regulation on what classified a product as gluten-free. According to a study featured in BMC Medicine, the gluten-free food industry has expanded to over $2 billion in global sales, as of 2010. With the rapid expansion and lack of regulatory standards, choosing gluten free products could be a rather big risk for those with Celiac Disease and gluten-sensitivities.
As we mentioned in our previous gluten-free feature, Celiac Disease has no cure. The only known way to manage the disease is through a strict, gluten-free diet. Andrea Levario, the executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, stated, “not having a legal definition of ‘gluten-free,’ consumers could never be positive that their body would tolerate a food with the gluten-free label.” Therefore, this new ruling is causing many people with Celiac Disease and the gluten-intolerant to rejoice in the safety of the universal standard.
The rule will apply to the following labels:
- “No gluten”
- “Free of gluten”
- “Without gluten”
We now know that gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, as well as some contaminated oats and that even the smallest amount can cause symptoms in those with Celiac and gluten-intolerance. The FDA has decided to consider foods with no more than 20ppm (parts per million) of gluten as gluten-free. But, what does the 20ppm mean, you ask? 20ppm is the least amount of gluten that can be found in foods via reliable scientific analysis testing. It is also the level that meets many other countries’ standards for safety.
Manufacturers will have until August 5th, 2014 to abide by the ruling. Michael R. Taylor, J.D., the Deputy FDA Food Commissioner, states that while the FDA believes the majority of gluten-free companies already fall under compliance, they urge companies to closely examine their practices, before the one-year mark from the ruling3.
While the FDA will not be testing these products before they hit the market, if a food item is found to violate the ruling, the item will be subject to an official FDA investigation, and possible suspension.
What a month for the gluten-free community! We are pleased that this ruling will allow for a safer shopping experience for gluten-free folks!
For more detailed information on the FDA’s ruling, please visit the FDA’s website.
 Rubio-Tapia, Alberto, Jonas F. Ludvigsson, Tricia L. Brantner, Joseph A. Murray, and James E. Everhart. “The Prevalence of Celiac Disease in the United States.”Nature.com. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, Oct. 2012. Web. 26 Aug. 2013. <http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/v107/n10/full/ajg2012219a.html>.
 Sapone, Anna, Julio C. Bai, Carolina Ciacci, Jernej Dolinsek, Peter HR Green, and Marios Hadjivassiliou. “Spectrum of Gluten-related Disorders: Consensus on New Nomenclature and Classification.” BMC Medicine. BioMed Central Medicine, 7 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 Aug. 2013. <http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/10/13>.
 “For Consumers.” What Is Gluten-Free? FDA Has an Answer. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 02 Aug. 2013. Web. 26 Aug. 2013. <http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm363069.htm>.