Did you know that up until 2013, there were no rules or formal definitions letting manufacturers know which foods should or shouldn’t be labeled “gluten free”?
Reading labels is not an easy task for those with celiac disease. As many of you know, the list of ingredients we cannot eat that are often put into prepackaged goods is not short by any means. And let’s be honest, I’m sure most people can’t tell you what goes into the chemicals added to the food we frequently eat. I know I can’t. That’s for sure.
That’s why clear cut labeling is so important for us consumers. We deserve to know what goes into the food we eat, especially if that food can destroy the lining of your intestines…
Gluten Free Food Labeling
To give you a brief history lesson on the FDA’s food allergen labeling requirements, it all began in the early 2000s.
Back in 2004, the FDA published FALCPA (the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act), which requires that the label of a food containing an ingredient that is or contains protein from a “major food allergen” (wheat, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and soy) is clearly marked on packaging. However, that only denotes wheat, which if you have celiac disease, you know that we are allergic to much more than just what the FDA considers wheat.
Yes, that’s right. Wheat free doesn’t necessarily mean gluten free.
Fast forward to 2014, and the FDA finally made some progress on the labeling laws tied to “gluten free” food offerings, dietary supplements, and medicines regulated by the FDA. Under the new amendments manufacturers must comply with the following guidelines:
- When the words “gluten free”; “free of gluten”; “no gluten” appear on packaging the product either doesn’t inherently contain gluten — AKA naturally gluten free
- The item doesn’t contain an ingredient that is a whole, gluten-containing ingredient
- The item doesn’t contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and hasn’t been processed to remove gluten
- The item may contain an ingredient that has been processed to remove gluten as long as the product contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten.
- Any unavoidable gluten in food due to cross-contamination is less than 20 ppm of gluten.
Too Good To Be True?!?!
So while it is grand that the FDA has created some guidance for food manufacturers in the United States, there is one important factor that needs to be re-evaluated. You see, these “gluten-free labeling” rules are voluntary. AKA you only have to follow these standards if you choose to label your food as “gluten free”.
Talk about a slap in the face right? Like, why bother, if you aren’t going to enforce it on all FDA regulated food and drug products…
What’s A Celiac To Do.
While, we have made progress, we clearly have a long way to go. The celiac community is growing, and as we create awareness, we cannot sit still — not until those with celiac disease can rest easy knowing that all packaged goods are clearly labelled.
In the meantime though, those with celiac disease can do a few things. First and foremost, the safest bet we can make it to stick with whole foods. There are so many different types of food that are naturally gluten free.
On top of this, we can look for goods that are labelled gluten free, especially those with the official gluten free certification. These items contain less than 10 ppm of gluten and go through an annual application and certification process.
Keep an eye out for the following brands who have completed the certification process…