What is Gluten?
In recent years, one of the biggest dietary shifts has been towards the gluten-free arena. Gluten is a protein complex commonly found in cereal grains such as barley, oats, rye and wheat.
Celiac disease is a systemic immune driven disorder in which individuals do not have the ability to absorb the gluten protein. As a result, foods that contain gluten trigger the production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine causing these individuals to suffer from a few of the following symptoms:
- weight loss
- abdominal distention
- frequent abdominal pain
- chronic fatigue
As a result, it is recommended that those who suffer from celiac disease must avoid consumption of food products that contain gluten like barley, oats, rye and wheat.
It is estimated that nearly 3 million Americans suffer from celiac disease. It is a condition that affects any age, race or ethnic group.
The FDA Rule
During August of 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule that defined what characteristics a food has to have to bear a label that proclaims it "gluten-free." The rule also holds foods labeled "without gluten," "free of gluten," and "no gluten" to the same standard (www.fda.gov).
Manufacturers of food products were given one year to upgrade their labels so that they complied with the new rule. As of August 5, 2014, all food products that bear a gluten-free claim labeled on or after this date must meet the rule’s requirements.
In order to be designated as gluten-free, the FDA set a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry this label. Furthermore, this regulation aligns with the international standard established by other countries. Prior to this rule, the FDA estimated that more than 5% of foods formerly labeled "gluten-free" contained 20 ppm or more of gluten.
The reason for establishing 20 ppm as the limit is because this is the amount of gluten that has been deemed tolerable by most standards.
Criteria for Gluten-Free Labels
The FDA will permit companies to use the gluten-free label as long as they meet the following standard (www.fda.gov):
- 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
In closing, the official launch of the FDA regulation is a major accomplishment for those who truly must follow a gluten-free diet. Ultimately, this move will allow people who suffer from celiac disease to be more adherent to their dietary restrictions.
© 2014 Mahogany Speaks