FDA sets 'gluten-free' labeling standards
August 2nd, 2013
10:30 AM ET
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration set a final standard on Friday to clearly define what the term "gluten-free" means on food labels.

The new regulation is targeted to help the estimated 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, a chronic inflammatory auto-immune disorder that can affect the lining of the small intestine when gluten is consumed. Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, rye, barley and crossbreeds of these grassy grains.

“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, in the release. “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."

The FDA outlined products that comply with the new  "gluten-free" labeling rule as:

  • Foods that inherently do not contain gluten (i.e. raw carrots or grapefruit juice) may use the "gluten-free" claim.
  • Foods with any whole, gluten-containing grains (i.e. spelt wheat) as ingredients may not use the claim.
  • Foods with ingredients that are gluten-containing grains that are refined but still contain gluten (i.e. wheat flour) may not use the claim.
  • Foods with ingredients that are gluten-containing grains that have been refined in such a way to remove the gluten may use the claim, so long as the food contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten (i.e. wheat starch).
  • Foods may not use the claim if they contain 20 parts per million of gluten or more as a result of cross-contact with gluten containing grains.

Manufacturers will have until August 5, 2014, to update their labels in compliance with the new requirements. Foods labeled as "without gluten," "free of gluten" or "no gluten" will also be held to the same standard.

“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free,’” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in the release.

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Filed under: Dietary Restrictions • FDA • Food Politics • Gluten-free • Labels

soundoff (351 Responses)
  1. NYC Fitness Events

    FDA sets 'gluten-free' labeling standards. Yes this is a big Deal! This will help so many.

    January 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
  2. isitreallythough

    This is a step in the right direction, but they're missing one key thing. While the actual food/ingredients may be gluten free, if the surfaces they touch are not, they're contaminated and are no longer safe for anyone with Celiac. 20ppm is also a bit high... Like I said, though, a step in the right direction. For those of you who think eating gluten free is simply a trend, spend time with someone who is truly intolerant of any gluten whatsoever and see what using even a contaminated knife or fork, a sip of a drink, or an uninformed waiter "just picking off the croutons" can do to them. It's heartbreaking and scary. My mom lived 20+ years undiagnosed with Celiac disease, her health rapidly declining until she completely cut out gluten. All those years, each time she allowed gluten into her body she unknowingly increased her risk of stomach cancer. And that's what all of these accidental contaminations because of bad labeling, preparation, or otherwise are doing to everyone else with Celiac. The consequence is more than a pain in the stomach that eventually subsides.

    Also, restaurants... do not claim your food is gluten-free when it isn't. If you can't make it truly gluten-free (basically a separate kitchen with separate utensils), don't say you offer g/f options. When those with a gluten intolerance ask questions or modify their meals, there's no need to be rude. And no everyone, they can't just suck it up and have a bite of bread "just this once."

    August 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  3. Gluten_BAd

    As A gluten intolerant individual,I NEED to eat non-gluten foods.

    If I do,I become ill,so I NEED this warning.You have to care about the people that are not the same as the majority,especially if that 'minority' are millions of people

    August 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
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