In case you missed it, on August 2, 2013, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration finally issued rules about gluten-free labeling of food.
The ruling has been a long time coming. In 2004 an allergen labeling rule was passed that called for a 2 year study and then rule issuance to deal with gluten free labeling issues. With legislative and guideline/agency foot dragging, it has taken this long for everyone to agree and issue the rule.
At least it did get issued.
The regulations state:
The final rule defines the term “gluten-free” to mean that the food bearing the claim does not contain an ingredient that is a gluten-containing grain (e.g., spelt wheat); an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour); or an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat starch), if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food (i.e., 20 milligrams (mg) or more gluten per kilogram (kg) of food); or inherently does not contain gluten; and that any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food is below 20 ppm gluten (i.e., below 20 mg gluten per kg of food).
Interesting reading, no?
I don’t know quite what to do with the 20 parts per million thing. The rationality of setting that level appears to be that most available tests can’t detect levels of gluten in products any lower than this.
I don’t know if there are different levels of celiac disease being diagnosed. I do know that my niece is much more likely to get ill or have a more serious reaction than her mother, from whom she apparently inherited the disease.
There is another label to look for: the Gluten Intolerance Group has a Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) which is said to check foods down to 10 parts per million of gluten. I’ve just learned of them, so I’ll be doing some checking and try to find out how that labeling works.
I think the new regulations will help folks who are simply trying to eliminate most gluten from their lives.
For celiac sufferers, I still think it’s critically important to carefully check labels, if you’re buying prepared foods. Learn to make better use of non-gluten naturally kinds of foods and products – fresh vegetables, rice products (flours, breads, and pastas). Unfortunately, you just have to be super diligent in protecting yourself, no matter what the label says.
Companies have been given a year to comply with the new regulations for labeling their products as gluten free.