FDA Clamps Down on ‘Gluten-Free’ Labels

Aug 07, 2014

By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com

There are now stricter regulations governing the use of “gluten-free” claims placed on packaged food in the United States. Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that gluten-free can only be used for food products containing less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

The FDA issued the change in 2013, but the rule wasn’t enforced until a year later. Prior to August 5, 2014, there were no standards restricting the use of gluten-free labels on food products sold in the U.S.  The FDA said that the term will still be voluntary, but that companies must market foods as gluten-free “in a truthful and not misleading manner.”

Gluten greatly affects people with celiac disease, a condition which is triggered by consuming foods that contain wheat, barley, rye and oats. According to the FDA, an estimated 3 million Americans suffer from celiac disease, while some other people are sensitive to gluten or avoid it for personal reasons.  Celiac disease is classified as an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine. Symptoms include pain and discomfort in the digestive tract, along with a host of other issues, including anaemia and fatigue. The disease occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages.

The legal definition of gluten-free, offers protection to American consumers from false or misguided marketing claims. Going forward, the FDA will be tasked to monitor gluten-free products to ensure that they have not been accidently cross-contaminated with gluten-containing products. For example oats are usually gluten-free, but are commonly grown with wheat and barley, which raises complications.

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