Gluten Free Labeling... It's a Mess

For someone with celiac disease, even the smallest amounts of gluten can cause illness and damage to the small intestine. With the gluten diet gaining tread and popularity, more and more companies are adding gluten free labels to their products. The verbiage changes: “no gluten,” "gluten-free," "no gluten ingredients used," "low gluten," "naturally gluten-free."  The increased awareness is a delight for everyone with gluten restrictions, however companies can be misleading if it will increase their bottom line. For those of us with celiac disease, loose gluten label regulations are dangerous and frightening.

According to an article written by the The Hill, a new rule, The Food Allergen and Consumer Protection Act, has arrived at the White House for final review in February 2013. Since 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working on the gluten free labeling requirements. The rule is currently at the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). It will need to be approved by the OIRA before it can be enacted. According to the article, that FDA said “establishing a definition of the term 'gluten-free' and uniform conditions for its use in the labeling of foods is necessary to ensure that individuals with celiac disease are not misled and are provided with truthful and accurate information with respect to foods so labeled.” In this rule, the FDA “defines a product as “gluten free” if it does not contain the following: wheat, rye, barley, or any hybrid of these grains; ingredients such as wheat flour that have not been processed to remove gluten; or any item made up of more than 20 parts per million of gluten.” The amount of time the rule will sit with the OIRA is unknown, the majority under review “have been sitting for more than the 90-day review limit imposed on the White House,” according to The Hill. Hopefully, we will receive updates of the rule in the upcoming weeks.

In the meantime, it is important to understand some of the shortfall of this rule as it is likely to be enacted. Standardizing gluten labeling is critical for individuals who become sick from a bread crumb size portion of gluten. The rule has the potential however, to provide headaches and stomach aches. 

According to the article, Gluten Contamination of Grains, Seeds, and Flours, the proposed rule says many single-ingredient foods are considered inherently free of gluten. Inherently gluten-free grains will be viewed as mislabeled if they have a gluten-free label and “do not also state that all foods of the same type are gluten-free (eg, "all millet is gluten free")” However, a study examined twenty-two inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours and sent them unopened for gluten analysis. According to the article, “seven of 22 samples (32%) contained mean gluten levels >/=20 ppm and would not be considered gluten-free under the proposed FDA rule for gluten-free labeling. Gluten contamination of inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours not labeled gluten-free is a legitimate concern.” Naturally, this is a real health concern. Calling and finding distributors that your gut can trust is a solution for finding “inherently gluten free grains”, that are truly without gluten.
Another solution is sticking to products that have been certified Gluten-Free. The GF logo says the products has been independently verified for its “quality, integrity, and purity of products. Products carrying the GF logo represents unmatched reliability and for meeting strict gluten-free standards” (according to GF certification website). 

Kay’s Naturals has been certified Gluten-Free. Gluten free labeling can be misleading and difficult to navigate. But rest easy when you pop open a bag of our cereal or chips. Know we have gone the extra mile to ensure that all of our products are completely gluten free. Your tummy will stay happy with us!  


in the United States: A Pilot Study.      Thompson, T.,Roland Lee, A., Grace, T. (June 2010) Journal of the American Dietetic Association. v110 (n6): 937(4)

Gluten Contamination of Grains, Seeds, and Flours
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