FDA sets standards for 'gluten-free' food labeling

As of August 2014, foods labeled as 'gluten-free' must contain less than 20 ppm of grain-based protein

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Foods must carry gluten content of less than 20 parts per million in order to carry the label "gluten-free," according to a new regulation issued by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA announced the regulation Wednesday, saying the standard would provide consumers with the assurance that "gluten-free" claims on product labeling are consistent and reliable across the food industry; other labels, such as "no gluten" and "without gluten" also would be subject to the new standard.

According to the agency, 20 ppm is the smallest amount of gluten that can be reliably detected in foods, and most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small quantities. Gluten is a protein that naturally occurs in wheat, rye and barley, but as many as 3 million Americans may have celiac disease, an auto-immune and inflammatory disorder that leaves the body unable to process gluten.

The FDA said many foods labeled as "gluten-free" already meet the federal definition, but those that have not yet complied have until August 2014 to do so.


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