New gluten-free labeling to clear up confusion
With an increasing number of Americans suffering from celiac disease, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says it’s critical that food labels regarding gluten are clear and accurate.
In an effort to help clear up all of the confusion, the government agency has created a new regulation that standardizes the definition of the term “gluten-free” in order to help ensure the health and safety of consumers who have the condition that threatens their digestive systems.
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. It also shows up in some vitamins, dietary supplements and certain medicines. According to the FDA, nearly 3 million Americans have the disease, which requires them to completely avoid consuming anything that contains the ingredient.
“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, in a news release. “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.”
Government officials said current labeling that includes “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten,” must meet the new requirement that mandates these food have less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
Food producers will have one year to make the proposed label changes.
Dr. Richard Bone, gastroenterologist with Advocate Medical Group says celiac disease affects the small intestine.
“With celiac disease, there’s injury to the villi, the hair-like projections that line the small intestines, which help with nutrient absorption in the gastrointestinal tract,” he explained. He said symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
The FDA is hoping food producers get on-board soon.
“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 celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free’” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods.
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