Gluten-Free products, once a niche market for celiac disease patients, are growing more rapidly than ever. It is estimated that 1 in 133 people in North America are affected by celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which eating gluten causes severe intestinal damage.
A contributing factor to the rapid growth in this market is the increased number of people without celiac disease that are discovering they have a “gluten intolerance” or “gluten sensitivity”, causing abdominal discomfort when digesting gluten. Additionally, there is an increase in people choosing gluten-free foods for weight loss, nutritional value and overall well-being.
With the increased demand for gluten-free foods, we have seen food manufacturers expand their product lines to include “gluten-free” options. With more and more options on the shelf, there is growing uncertainty surrounding products labeled “gluten-free” and whether or not they comply with proper manufacturing protocols. Many consumers now face potentially life threating purchasing decisions.
In August 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the final rule about labeling food products “gluten-free”.
The FDA will allow food manufacturers to label food “gluten-free” if the food does not contain any of the following:
- An ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley or crossbreeds of these grains;
- An ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten;
- 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.
Manufacturers have until August 2014 to bring their labels into compliance. If a manufacturer fails to meet the requirements, their product(s) will be considered misbranded and subject to regulatory action by the FDA.
The new rule has brought peace of mind to consumers who need to ensure that a labeled food is truly gluten-free.