FDA Standardizes Gluten-Free Labeling

Students working on their culinary certificates who are living with Celiac’s disease or gluten intolerance can eat with greater peace of mind now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set specific standards for gluten-free labels. In 2004, Congress called upon the FDA to set standards for how much trace gluten would be allowed in a product before it was no longer considered to be gluten-free. After years of research, the agency has officially declared that any food with 20 parts per million of gluten or less can be considered safe for people with sensitivities to eat.

As many culinary school students may know, gluten is protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley or rye that has a gluey texture that helps bind foods together. People with a sensitivity can become very sick from eating it, as gluten consumption can trigger their bodies to produce antibodies that will attack their small intestines. Standardizing what can be sold as gluten-free makes it easier for these people to feel more confident that the food they are purchasing is healthy for them. About 3 million people in the United States are living with Celiac’s disease while another 18 million are considered to be gluten intolerant.

While most foods marketed as gluten-free do already fall within the new standards, it establishes a firm policy moving forward that may prevent a widespread problem from developing. People who follow a gluten-free diet, nutritionists, doctors and even many gluten-free food industry leaders were highly supportive of the FDA’s finalized standards. Populations sensitive to this protein can now eat with the protection they deserve, knowing that companies in violation of the 20 part per million standard are subject to having their products seized or recalled by the FDA. The ruling will officially go into effect in 2014.

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