A couple weeks ago, the FDA finally announced their ruling on what constitutes a product to be “gluten free.” It was a victory for the members of the gluten free community, who have been awaiting a decision since the FDA first proposed defining the term in 2007. I’m here to outline the most important details of the ruling, for those of you who depend on those labels.
What is the ruling? A food may be labeled as gluten free if it is naturally free of gluten or if any gluten containing ingredient in the food measures below 20 parts per million (ppm).
But won’t manufacturers aim to remove just enough gluten so they can legally use the label and make money off the gluten free community? No, the rule requires that each product labeled gluten free that registers in the 0-20ppm range must have been manufactured with the goal of removing all gluten.
Why let even 19.5 ppm of gluten remain in a product—why not 0 ppm? Because there are currently no reliable tools or methods to measure accurately below 20 ppm.
Who does the labeling and is it mandatory? Product manufacturers; it is voluntary for the manufacturer to the label its product, but if it does, the product must meet the new requirements by the compliance date.
When is the compliance date? Manufacturers have one year from the official publishing of the rule to comply.
What products does this rule apply to? All FDA regulated foods, including dietary supplements (note: not all foods are FDA regulated, such as meats, poultry, and some egg products which are under USDA jurisdiction).
How will the FDA keep the manufacturers in check? It is up to the manufacturer to self-regulate. However, the FDA may inspect food manufacturing facilities, review food labels, follow up on complaints, and analyze food samples if it sees fit.
I hope this gave you some very basic information. For those of you who depend on the gluten free label, I advise you to read a more detailed description of the ruling here, on the official FDA website. All facts were pulled from that document.