The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday its finalized definition of what it takes for food to qualify as “gluten-free.”
With the new federal definition, it will standardize the meaning of “gluten-free.” In order to use the term “gluten-free” on a food label, that 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.”
Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.
“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free’” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.
The standardized definition will help the 3 million American who have celiac disease, along with millions more who follow a gluten-free diet for other reasons.
“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “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.”
Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in wheat, rye and barley. Celiac disease is an inherited auto-immune condition that makes it impossible for those who have it to digest gluten. If they eat gluten, their bodies produce antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. This can cause severe health problems including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature and intestinal cancers.
Gluten-free foods have become very popular over the past five years. USA Today reports the market was estimated to be $4.2 billion in 2012, according to Packaged Facts. The market research firm estimates sales will reach $6.6 billion by 2017.
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