For those with celiac disease or other reasons to avoid gluten, the "gluten-free" labels on food are an essential tool for buying healthy foods. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has published a regulation that for the first time defines the content of gluten allowed in a food labeled "gluten free."
Those with celiac disease suffer from digestive problems because consuming gluten (found in naturally in wheat, rye, barley and other grains) triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine. Others have adopted gluten-free diets for various goals, including losing weight and increasing energy.
The rule has been in the works since 2004, when Congress directed the FDA to set rules for labeling gluten-free foods. Since then, the market for gluten-free foods has more than tripled to $4 billion, according to statistics quoted in the New York Times.
The regulation states that food labeled "gluten free" should in fact be gluten free, though it allows for a limit of residual gluten that may be left in a processed food designed to remove gluten from gluten-containing grains. The actual limit on gluten in labeled products, 20 parts per million, won't likely mean much to the average consumer. The main benefit is in consumer confidence. Now, consumers should be reassured that "gluten-free" foods, like organic foods, are what they claim to be.
There are some nuances consumers might take note of:
The FDA rule will go into full effect in one year.
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