FDA defining what 'gluten free' means on packages
WASHINGTON — Consumers are going to know exactly what they are getting when they buy foods labeled “gluten free.”
The Food and Drug Administration is at last defining what a “gluten free” label on a food package really means after more than six years of consideration. Until now, manufacturers have been able to use their own discretion as to how much gluten they include.
Under an FDA rule announced Friday, products labeled “gluten free” still won't have to be technically free of wheat, rye and barley and their derivatives. But they almost will: “Gluten-free” products will have to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough so that most people who have celiac disease won't get sick if they eat it.
People who suffer from celiac disease don't absorb nutrients well and can get sick from the gluten found in wheat and other cereal grains. Other countries already have similar standards.
Celiac disease affects up to 3 million Americans. It causes abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea, and people who have it can suffer weight loss, fatigue, rashes and other long-term medical problems. Celiac is a diagnosed illness that is more severe than gluten sensitivity, which some people self-diagnose.
Only a very small number of people wouldn't be able to ingest the amount of gluten that will be allowed under the new rule, FDA officials said.
“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said. “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 rule would also ensure that foods with the labels “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” meet the definition. Manufacturers will have a year to comply, though the FDA urged companies to meet the definition sooner.
Many companies that market gluten-free foods already meet the standard. But Andrea Levario of the American Celiac Disease Alliance said the federal guidelines will cut down on painstaking shopping for those who suffer from celiac disease.
Levario said that wheat must be labeled on food packages but that barley and rye are often hidden ingredients in food. The standard will also ensure that companies can't label products “gluten-free” even if they are cross-contaminated from other products made in the same manufacturing facility.
“Without clear ingredient information and a definitive labeling standard, celiac consumers are playing Russian roulette when it comes to making safe food choices,” said Levario. “This will eliminate confusion for the consumer and will cut down on calls to companies to try and determine whether their products are safe and gluten free.”
Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, said the rule originally proposed during the George W. Bush administration was delayed because the agency was evaluating whether standard was correct.
“We wanted to do a careful scientific assessment of the data and the range of sensitivities,” Taylor said.
Since the rule was first proposed, gluten-free foods have become big business. Millions of people are buying the foods because they say they make them feel better, even if they don't have celiac disease. Americans spent more than $4 billion on gluten-free foods last year, according to the American Celiac Disease Alliance, and a major manufacturing survey issued this week suggested that the niche industry is giving an economic boost to the food industry overall.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Foreign influx in Allegheny County at ‘tipping point’
- Steelers hope group of low-budget cornerbacks can deliver
- Steelers WR Wheaton wants to produce after injury-plagued rookie year
- Steelers notebook: Ben believes rookie WR Bryant can contribute
- Inside the ropes: Roethlisberger may have his big receiver
- Pirates avert sweep with 7-5 victory over Rockies
- Former Gateway coach Smith is ‘perfect fit’ for Penn State football staff
- Home sellers are able to remain mum about violent crimes committed there
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle, Huntington on same page
- Construction of $500M power plant in South Huntingdon stalled
- Squirrel Hill Tunnel workers cope with speeders, exhaust fumes