Gluten Free is Getting Serious

January 05, 2012

The UK has set into place strict standards for gluten free labeling. Will the US follow suit?

The New Year brought about great news for celiac citizens in the UK. A new law, the first of its kind, regarding gluten free labeling has been put in place for foods sold in supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, and other places where food is sold. 
With three new labeling categories, the new law gives shoppers more ways to help make informed choices about food.
Gluten-free: applies only to food which has 20 parts per million (ppm) or less of gluten (*which is currently the acceptable limit for gluten free foods)
Very low gluten: applies to foods which have between 21 and 100 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. 
No gluten-containing ingredients: this is not covered by the law and is for foods that are made with ingredients that don’t contain gluten and where cross contamination controls are in place. These foods will have very low levels of gluten but have not been tested to the same extent as those labeled gluten-free or very low gluten unless otherwise stated on the label. 
The Food Standards Agency is in support of the new law and has produced guidance to help with adjustment to the law. 
In the US shoppers are still left to figure out if foods are safe for them, while some manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that their gluten-free products are, in fact, free of gluten (testing ingredients and avoiding contamination in their factories), other manufacturers do none of that. Without a uniform standard for labels, people at risk can't reliably know the difference. The Lempert Report predicts a similar law will be instituted in the US by June of this year.
*United States, the FDA issued regulations in 2007 limiting the use of "gluten-free" in food products to those with less than 20 ppm of gluten. The current international Codex Alimentarius standard allows for 20 ppm of gluten in so-called "gluten-free" foods.