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FDA proposes new regulations for "gluten-free" food labeling

Posted: August 2, 2013 |   Comments

( The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced new labeling standards for "gluten-free" foods. The new standards are designed to protect celiac disease patients who suffer from a condition of intestinal inflammation that is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Celiac disease affects around 3 million people in the United States.

As per the new standards, food must have less than .002 percent gluten in order to be labeled gluten-free. This follows standards implemented in the European Union and Canada.

The same standards apply to labels claiming "no gluten," "free of gluten," and "without gluten." Food manufacturers have been given one year to comply to the new rule.

Although gluten-free labeled foods have not previously been held to any legal standard, the FDA believes that most foods currently with a gluten-free label already meet the new standard.

Despite this, the lack of regulation for "gluten-free" labels posed a threat to celiac disease patients, according to Francine Fazio, vice president of the Celiacs Resource Group. She said, "It's so hard to go through the aisles and buy foods that are safe and tasty. Now we can buy food with confidence that's safe to eat, just like the general public."

Gluten is naturally present in wheat, rye, barley, and hybrid crops. It can also be found in some nutritional supplements, lip balms and medications.

The FDA began examining potential regulations more than six years ago when Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, requiring the FDA to develop guidelines for gluten-free labels. In 2007, the agency proposed regulations for gluten-free labeling, but they were left unfinalized as the agency waited for scientific assessments, interactions with the celiac community and a safety assessment to validate 20 parts per million as a safe cut-off level.

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