Gluten-free fads have risen drastically over the past several years. To date, gluten-free lifestyles and diets have not only emerged because of serious medical conditions such as Celiac disease – the autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine – but because of weight-loss trends and claims that gluten-free diets may be better for one’s overall health.
More than 3 million Americans living with Celiac disease are advised to avoid gluten, the protein found in foods containing wheat, barley, or rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. Gluten also functions as a thickening aid and helps fill a wide range of products.
The Celiac Support Association (CSA) has long awaited the final rule defining the term “gluten-free” for voluntary use in labeling. In August of 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule defining “gluten-free” for food labeling, which will help inform consumers that items labeled “gluten-free” meet a defined standard for gluten content. The final rule applies to all FDA-regulated packaged foods, including dietary supplements. New technology is available that can help streamline the food labeling process to ensure accuracy and food safety.
As of August 5, 2014, all manufacturers of FDA-regulated packaged food making a gluten-free claim must comply with the guidelines outlined by the FDA. In addition, on June 25, 2014, the FDA issued a guide for small food businesses to help them comply with the final rule’s requirements. The FDA will continue to educate and monitor the industry on the gluten-free claim.
According to the FDA, consumers and manufacturers can report any complaint they may have, such as potential misuse of gluten-free claims on food labels, to an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in the state where the food was purchased.