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Gluten-Free Labeling Rules Take Effect on August 5, 2014

For those of us who must read labels to check for wheat and its by-products, life just got a little easier.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration started enforcing a rule last week that requires all products claiming to be gluten-free to contain no more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Gluten is a protein found primarily in wheat, but also in rye and barley.

Why the stringent limit on gluten? Because those who suffer from celiac disease can have an adverse reaction even to infinitesimal amounts.  Dr. Alessio Fasano, director for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General hospital says “The gluten-free diet for someone with celiac disease is like insulin for diabetics”.

"This labeling rule makes it very clear cut. … That gives me a lot more comfort,” said Beth Hillson, president of the American Celiac Disease Assn.  For someone suffering from celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity, not a whimsical choice.

But before we get excited about the new rule, it’s important to remember that manufacturers label their products gluten-free voluntarily – the FDA doesn’t require them to. But, if they do use the label, Gluten-Free it must adhere to the new FDA definition of less than 20 ppm of gluten.  So while tree nuts must be listed as an allergen on food packaging, gluten-containing substances don’t have to be.  Wheat, a similar allergen to tree nuts,  must be listed, but not barely or rye.
Nonetheless, the more popular a gluten-free diet becomes, the more products manufacturers will produce without gluten, a market that’s $6 billion and growing.

All good news – but a little knowledge goes a long way. Understanding that wheat and its many offshoots, as well as barley and rye, contain gluten is essential. So know what to look for when you read a package label.

Source: Los Angeles Times
Pamela Hasterok