U.S. Has Yet to Define “Gluten-Free” for Food Labels

Because even the tiniest amount of gluten can make celiacs ill, reading labels in selecting gluten-free foods is one of the necessary skills celiac patients should acquire right at the start of their gluten-free diet. However, it isn’t enough for celiacs to look for a “gluten-free” label to stay safe in the U.S. Although proposals for gluten-free labeling laws are in the works, currently there is no official definition in this country for “gluten-free.”

According to Living Without, neither of the two major food government agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates egg, meat, and poultry products, nor the FDA, which oversees packaged and other foods, have a specific definition for “gluten free.” As it stands, the FDA’s standard for gluten-free labeling is that the label be “truthful and not misleading.” This means that if a food is supposed to be “free” of an ingredient, it shouldn’t have that ingredient in it.

Unfortunately, this standard isn’t workable when it comes to gluten-free products. Whereas other products which claim to be “free” of substances such as caffeine or sodium can be confirmed with testing to indeed have zero of these substances, Living Without reports that the technology for testing for zero gluten isn’t yet developed, according to attorney Andrea Levario, who is the executive director of the American celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA).

As it stands, gluten is tested in parts per million (ppm) and the smallest detectable amount is presently 20 ppm. According to Living Without, celiac experts are in agreement that this is a safe amount for celiacs to ingest. However, other countries define “gluten-free” as having below 20 ppm.

According to AmericanCeliac.org, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act 0f 2004 (FALCPA) has required the FDA to formulate voluntary gluten-free labeling laws. The website provides a series of questions and answers from the FDA regarding the current proposals, which were developed in 2006. These current proposals require that the gluten content be less than 20 ppm and that the product itself can’t have 20 ppm or more of gluten, due to the limitations in the current analytic technology.

According to Living Without, “With the number of products making unregulated gluten-free claims on the rise, the marketplace can be potentially dangerous for consumers with gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy.” Recognizing this fact, the American Celiac Disease Alliance is clarifying the proposed gluten-free labeling regulations on its website, www.AmericanCeliac.org.

Before this labeling regulation can be put into effect, according to Celiac.com, the FDA needs to make another draft of the proposal public, gather and consider the commentary generated from the new draft, and then publish a notice regarding the safety assessment. “The FDA will likely publish the notice on the safety assessment soon,” Celiac.com reports, but there is no indication as to just when they will issue the final rule. With “gluten-free” labeling on the rise, it seems more crucial than ever to get these regulations passed with a clear definition for “gluten free.”

Article Courtesy:  Tina Turbin

One thought on “U.S. Has Yet to Define “Gluten-Free” for Food Labels

  1. My family has more than it's share of us with claeic disease or the related disorders. I am 59, born Jan 8, 1952; my Dad who is 77 was born May 19, 1934; twin granddaughters age 11 born Jan 27, 2000 we all have full blown cd. My brother born on Oct 17, 1964 and another granddaugher age 12 born Feb 16, 1999 have dermatitis herpeteformis; my Dad, my daughter age 33 born Jan 29, 1978 and a grandson age 14 born Sept 16, 1997 are lactose intolerant my family is very small in stature (grandma 4'10 and Dad 5'4 ) my Dad's sister died at age 42, born July 8 1928, probably from cd related disorders.

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