This page elaborates on one suggestion in my quick list of gluten-free diet tips.
A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule about gluten-free labeling became reality on August 5, 2014 (the compliance deadline for manufacturers).
In essence, all packaged food products that bear the term “gluten free“ must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.
According to the FDA, the new labeling rule ensures that the “gluten-free” claims on food packages are reliable and consistent.
This is good news, isn't it? Yes, this new rule is a huge accomplishment that took many years to achieve. But it could certainly be improved, and hopefully over time, it will be.
Unfortunately, some people with celiac disease are so sensitive to gluten that their body will react to products that contain 20 ppm of gluten. (If you are one of them, see the section about the certification of products that contain less than 10 ppm of gluten.)
A couple other facts to note about this new rule:
According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), this gluten-free labeling rule also applies to dietary supplements—but not to the following (2):
For more information, see the follow-up fact sheet from the NFCA's webinar titled “Understanding the FDA's Gluten-Free Labeling Rule Part 1: What You Need to Know.“ The NFCA's fact sheet about gluten-free labeling is available as a PDF.
The use of a gluten-free label on a food product does not eliminate the requirement to comply with the FDA's mandatory allergen labeling rule, described below.
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, which took effect January 1, 2006, requires that the labels of foods must state the presence of the top eight allergens in plain language. The top eight allergens are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy. (3)
According to the FDA, these top eight allergens account for 90 percent of food allergies.
The allergen labeling on a food product has a Contains statement, for example, “Contains wheat.”
Note that a food can be labeled gluten free and also include the word “wheat” in the ingredients list and in the Contains statement. This might seem like a contradiction. However, the FDA is allowing the use of ingredients such as wheat starch under the following circumstances:
In fact, the word “wheat” in such food products must be followed by an asterisk and the statement: “The wheat has been processed to allow this food to meet the Food and Drug Administration requirements for gluten-free foods.”
Here's another gluten-free diet tip for you to consider: When shopping for gluten-free products, look for products that are certified gluten free (and bear a special label indicating so).
According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) (4): “There are several certifying bodies that offer gluten-free certification, and each has its own criteria to ensure safety for consumers. Typically, the criteria includes testing the gluten content of the finished product.“
The following are the gluten-free certification programs noted by the NFCA:
Obviously, these certification requirements are more stringent than the FDA’s threshold of less than 20 ppm of gluten. Especially if you find yourself sensitive to trace amounts of gluten, you might consider buying products that meet these requirements.
Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP) Seal
Gluten-Free Certification (GFCO) Seal
Quality Assurance International/National Sanitation Foundation (QAI/NSF) Certification Seal
National Celiac Association (NCA) Recognition Seal
1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 'Gluten-Free' Now Means What It Says. [Article]
2. Beyond Celiac. Gluten-Free Archived Webinars: “Understanding the FDA's Gluten-Free Labeling Rule Part 1: What You Need to Know.“ Webinar held September 18, 2013. [Webinar]
3. FDA. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. [Regulation Text]
4. Beyond Celiac. Gluten-Free Certification. [Article]