In August 2013, the Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule that defined what characteristics a food has to have to bear a label that proclaims it “gluten free.” The rule also holds foods labeled “without gluten,” “free of gluten” and “no gluten” to the same standard.
Manufacturers had one year to bring their labels into compliance. As of Tuesday, any food product bearing a gluten-free claim labeled on or after this date must meet the rule’s requirements.
This rule was welcomed by advocates for people with celiac disease, who face potentially life-threatening illnesses if they eat the gluten found in breads, cakes, cereals, pastas and many other foods.
Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, notes that there is no cure for celiac disease and the only way to manage the disease is dietary—not eating gluten. Without a standardized definition of “gluten free,” these consumers could never really be sure if their body would tolerate a food with that label, she says.
As one of the criteria for using the claim “gluten-free,” FDA set a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry this label. This is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. In addition, most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten. This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards.
“This standard ‘gluten-free’ definition eliminates uncertainty about how food producers label their products. People with celiac disease can rest assured that foods labeled ‘gluten-free’ meet a clear standard established and enforced by FDA,” says Felicia Billingslea, director of FDA’s division of food labeling and standards.
Go here to read more about gluten, FDA’s definition of “gluten free” and how the rule applies to restaurants.