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New FDA Rules On What's Really 'Gluten-Free'


Not all products labeled as “gluten-free” or some variation of it were actually free of the protein that can cause life-threatening illness in millions of Americans.

That changed August 5, the deadline given to manufacturers to comply with new Food and Drug Administration restrictions on what can be labeled as “gluten-free.”

In this week’s Vital Signs, dietitian Denice Taylor with Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital explains why the change is important.

From the conversation with Denice Taylor...  

The problem with previous “gluten-free” labeling: “Well, it’s been a little bit of a variety. There hasn’t been a universal method, and now just the “gluten-free” label is what we’re going to see versus the other types of wordings, such as “without gluten,” “free of gluten”, we’re going to see a more standardized labeling.” 

About Celiac Disease:  “…a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. People with celiac disease can’t tolerate the gluten (a protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley). There’s no cure for it. The only way to manage that disease is watching the diet and staying off gluten.”

Any health benefits in “gluten-free” products for people who aren’t gluten-sensitive? “No, there isn’t a health benefit. And sometimes people can be avoiding specific nutrients that they really need like the B vitamins that are in grains that we eat.”

What the FDA now counts as “gluten-free”:

  • Gluten limited to less than 20 parts per million,
  • Food can’t include an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains
  • Food can’t include an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten
  • A food can’t include an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten

For more information:

New Rules about FDA “gluten-free” labeling

Celiac Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, etc.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.