FDA defines ‘gluten-free’ for US food labelling
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a new regulation defining the term ‘gluten-free’ for voluntary food labelling. The regulation was published 2 August 2013 in the Federal Register.
The FDA said the new definition will provide a “uniform standard definition” to help the up to 3 million US consumers who have coeliac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be effectively managed only by eating a gluten-free diet.
The new US definition requires that, in order to use the term ‘gluten-free’ on its label, a food must meet all the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten”, “free of gluten”, and “without gluten” to meet the definition for ‘gluten-free’.
“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating coeliac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said Margaret A. Hamburg MD, FDA Commissioner. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health,” she said.
The FDA said many foods currently labelled as ‘gluten-free’ may already be able to meet the new federal definition. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.
“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with coeliac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free’,” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner of Foods and Veterinary Medicine.
The term ‘gluten’ refers to proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of these grains. In people with coeliac disease, foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. Such damage limits the ability of people with coeliac disease to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other very serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature, and intestinal cancers.
The FDA was directed to issue the new regulation by the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act.