Wednesday, August 6, 2014

gluten-free is now gluten-free per new FDA standards

My oldest son has been on a gluten-free diet for almost a decade now, and we've seen the food landscape change greatly during that time. When we started out, my wife would go to specialty stores (or order online) to get ingredients, and then would have to bake any type of bread-like food from scratch (breads, pancakes, etc.) Today we can walk into the local grocery store and choose from several different brands, and several different varieties, of gluten-free foods.

Kind Bars are one of my son's favorites.

However, we're still pretty careful about reading labels, and we've come across a few products labeled as gluten-free but which contained oats. And there have been other times where the ingredients listed looked ok, but the food still bothered my son. We've just assumed there was some cross-contamination going on, or maybe some trace elements in there somehow. But now it makes sense...

Per the Associated Press, via Fox News:

Starting this week, "gluten-free" labels on packaged foods have real meaning. Until now, the term "gluten-free" had not been regulated, and manufacturers made their own decisions about what it means.
Under a rule announced a year ago, food manufacturers had until Tuesday to ensure that anything labeled gluten-free contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten - ensuring that those products are technically free of wheat, rye and barley. That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough so that most people who have celiac disease won't get sick if they eat it.
Currently, wheat must be labeled on food packages but barley and rye are often hidden ingredients.
The standard will ensure that companies can't label products "gluten-free" if they are cross-contaminated from other products made in the same manufacturing facility. The rules don't apply to restaurants, but the Food and Drug Administration is encouraging them to comply.
Gluten-free foods have become big business in the last several years. Millions of people are buying the foods because they say they make them feel better, even if they don't have celiac disease.
Steve Hughes, CEO of Boulder Brands, which owns leading gluten-free food companies Glutino and Udi's, says his company's products all have 10 parts per million of gluten, less than the new standard. He praises the FDA regulations for being a "stake in the ground" that can increase the integrity of the gluten-free market.

So gluten-free now means gluten-free - Thanks, FDA! (and what took you so long?!)

On a side note: the article (and the FDA) puts a big focus on celiac disease, but there is also a large percentage of the autism population whose bodies don't do well with gluten, and I've met many people without any diagnoses at all who have gone gluten-free and say they feel better because of it.

Anyway, today is a win for those counting on the manufacturers' labels being accurate - and for truth in advertising in general..!

-Chris Butterworth

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