FDA Gluten Guidelines Simplified

Kim LaCapria

The FDA's gluten labeling process has undergone a makeover, one that is expected to ease shopping and eating choices for the many Americans affected by gluten tolerance issues.

The FDA's gluten labeling changes aim to make life less challenging for people affected by celiac disease, who are unable to consume certain gluten-containing foods due to the resultant disruptive symptoms.

Celiac disease sufferers are cautioned to avoid wheat, rye, barley, and other similar grains to prevent flare-ups of their condition, but inconsistent labeling makes it difficult for those who are affected to completely prevent such an occurrence.

In addition to celiac disease sufferers, many Americans now simply wish to avoid gluten in food for various health or dietary reasons, and the FDA gluten labeling changes should make their shopping and dining experiences easier as well.

In a press release, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. explained how the FDA gluten changes will assist celiac disease sufferers in choosing safe foods:

"Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life. 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."

In the release, the agency also talks about how previous FDA gluten regulation gaps may have complicated the issue, adding:

"This new federal definition standardizes the meaning of 'gluten-free' claims across the food industry. It requires that, in order to use the term "gluten-free" on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims 'no gluten,' 'free of gluten,' and 'without gluten' to meet the definition for 'gluten-free.' "

The FDA's gluten changes may not affect all gluten-free products, some of which are already in compliance with the new guidelines. Gluten labeling adherence is voluntary, and is expected to be fully adopted within a year.