Gluten-Free Food Labeling (US)

Description: The Food and Drug Administration has recently issued a final rule regarding “gluten-free” labelling. In summary, wheat, rye and barley are gluten-containing grains. “Gluten-Free” claims cannot be used if the product:

  • contains a gluten grain (exception: gluten has been removed in processing, e.g. wheat starch)  OR
  • contains greater than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This may occur through cross contact during manufacturing or use of ingredients that have been processed to remove gluten, but residual levels remain. This final rule only applies to foods and dietary supplements that are regulated by the FDA.  Foods regulated by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) are not affected by this rule (although many companies follow it voluntarily).

Note: I’ve been to several small bakeries and restaurants that use “gluten-free” inappropriately.  Many eateries have started making gluten-free products to capitalize on the growing market, but do not recognize the risk of cross contact (contamination). Even if the ingredients are gluten-free, the product will very likely exceed 20 ppm of gluten if it is made in a facility that uses wheat flour. Wheat flour dust can remain suspended in the air for up to 48 hours, gradually settling on kitchen counters, appliances, etc. Even with very thorough cleaning, it is difficult to remove all traces of wheat flour. Under these circumstances, a restaurant/bakery would need to test their food and only label as gluten-free if the product was consistently below 20 ppm. I always ask restaurants how their gluten-free products were made and provide information when necessary.

Target Audience: Consumers and professionals.

Organization: Food and Drug Administration website

Website Link: www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm362880.htm

Posted in: Fall2013-Resources