It seems everywhere you turn these days, there is a new addition to the gluten-free gang. Celebrities, the lady down the street, maybe your own cousin — they’ve all happily hopped onto the gluten-free bandwagon, without or without an actual intolerance. However, there’s a new member of the group that may surprise you.
The latest additions to the list of things that are gluten-free are in fact foods labeled with the term “gluten-free.” Starting this week, the term “gluten-free” is regulated, meaning it is no longer up to the various manufacturers to decide what that label actually means.
For those who suffer from celiac disease or other conditions that prevent them from digesting gluten, this comes as welcome news.
Food manufacturers were given a year to make sure any foods bearing the gluten-free label contained less than 20 parts per million of gluten, and time ran out this week. Gluten content that low can usually be digested even by those with some sort of definable gluten intolerance such as celiac disease.
A gluten intolerance can manifest itself in a number of ways, including abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue and other medical problems that may extend into the long-term.
Like other labels that are unregulated, past gluten-free labels could be misleading if consumers didn’t read the fine print. Before the new rule was implemented, only products containing wheat had to be labeled as such. Often barley and rye were still present in foods labeled gluten-free. Though this didn’t bother people who avoided gluten due to a wheat allergy, it spelled trouble for those with Celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities.
Though many may turn to a gluten-free lifestyle as simply a means to lose weight, there is a small percentage of people who suffer serious side effects after consuming gluten and have been hoping for a more regulated labeling system.
The FDA’s new label standard makes it impossible for companies to label their products as gluten-free if they have been cross-contaminated by other products containing gluten made in the same facility. Though restaurants do not have to comply with the new rules, they are encouraged to do so.