What Does the New FDA Gluten-free Rule Mean?

If gluten-free products are part of your or your family’s diet, you’ll want to know about the new labeling standard. These new rules, set by the Food and Drug Administration, ensure that these foods all adhere to the same standards.

You might be thinking, “But if a product says ‘gluten free,’ it’s ‘gluten-free,’ right?” Well, the issue is a bit more complex.

What Gluten-Free Really Means

First, it’s important to understand what gluten-free really means. Experts consider a product gluten-free if it has less than 20 parts per million of gluten (about ⅛ of a teaspoon in a gluten-free loaf of bread). This is the generally agreed-upon amount that would not sicken those with the autoimmune disorder celiac disease, which requires they have a gluten-free diet.

But this standard has been voluntary. No imposed rules force manufacturers to follow this guideline. It's assumed that they do so in good faith.

The new FDA rule, though, means that foods labeled “gluten-free” must not contain more than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten” and “without gluten” meet the new definition for gluten-free. 

Avoiding Gluten Cross-Contamination

Although most people associate gluten with wheat, it is also in rye and barley. It may seem easy enough to produce foods without these grains, but cross contamination is a big issue. The rule ensures manufacturers will have measures in place to confirm that cross contamination in manufacturing plants doesn’t adulterate products.

This new legislation is a huge win in the celiac community for those for whom even the smallest amount of gluten can mean acute illness. These individuals will be able to shop gluten-free products with more confidence. For anyone wishing to add gluten-free products to their diet, the label offers assurance as well.

Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements. There is not an official FDA gluten-free seal. Any product labeled “gluten-free” will have to comply with the rules.


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