The gluten-free labeling rule issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August of 2013 went into effect on August 5, 2014. It requires any food product that carries a gluten-free claim to contain no more than 20 parts per million of gluten. Labeling of gluten as an ingredient in food products remains voluntary.

Over 3 million Americans live with celiac disease, according to FDA. This rule is designed to make avoiding gluten, and the serious symptoms that can follow for those with the disease, a more failsafe process. Many do not have celiac disease but are intolerant to gluten, and for these people eating the grain-based protein can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. In addition, the gluten-free diet has become a popular trend for many who believe it can lead to better health or relief from certain health issues.

Products labeled gluten-free may contain ingredients that normally contain gluten, such as wheat, as long as they have been processed to remove gluten to a level below 20 parts per million. The 20 parts per million standard also applies to any cross-contamination of foods that may occur in the manufacturing process. The total gluten content, including any that comes from cross-contact during manufacture or from product packaging, may not exceed this threshold.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2014