Aug. 2, 2013 – After nearly a decade of waiting, people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can rejoice that the Food and Drug Administration has finally set a standard for gluten-free labeling.
The rule, which also applies to foods labeled as “no gluten”, “without gluten” and “free of gluten”, sets a strict maximum: products which claim to be gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
This new level is backed by scientific evidence: “The FDA has devoted years of work to make sure the standard issued today was safe for celiac patients,” Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a press release. “Our research supports that standard.”
For those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, this is big news. There are a huge number of products now labeled as gluten-free on the market, but the consumer has had no way of knowing which claims were verified, and to what level of gluten. Now manufacturers will have to adhere to the new standard to label a product as gluten-free.
“We are very excited the FDA has finalized the gluten-free labeling rule,” said Alice Bast, president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). “It has been a long time coming. If someone is making gluten free claims, we now have a regulation.”
The standard was published on August 5, 2013, and manufacturers have one year to come into compliance. It will apply to almost anything regulated by the FDA, which means most foods and dietary supplements will be covered. However, the standard does not apply to foods regulated by the USDA, such as meat and poultry, nor does it apply to prescription drugs, says Bast. “People are still going to need to ask their pharmacist” about gluten additives, she says.
Still, the NFCA is thrilled with the new rule: “It’s a step towards gluten-free safety in the United States,” says Bast. The FDA estimates that the standard will result in an estimated $110 million in annual savings, because of fewer health issues for people with celiac disease.
Next: Press release from American Celiac Disease Alliance
Press Release from the American Celiac Disease Alliance:
ALEXANDRIA, VA – August 2, 2013 – The American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA ), the nation’s leading celiac disease advocacy organization, today applauded the Food and Drug Administration (FDA ) for establishing a federal standard for gluten-free labeling. The long-awaited regulation will help to ensure that individuals with celiac disease have the basic information necessary to manage their health and is the result of a decade-long effort led by the ACDA, which represents patients and those serving the celiac community.
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to set labeling standards to aid the estimated 3 million Americans with celiac disease. Today, the only treatment for the genetic, autoimmune condition is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.
The new rule will require products bearing a gluten-free label to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) or 20mg/kg of gluten, a level research has found to be safe. Gluten is the common name for the protein found in all forms of wheat, as well as rye, barley and triticale, and is harmful to persons with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. A similar international standard was adopted as part of the Codex Alimentarius in 2008, and implemented in the European Union last year.
“A decade ago, our research determined that the prevalence of celiac disease in the United States was 1 in 133. Even then it was obvious that patients could not safely manage their diet without better labeling requirements,” noted Dr. Alessio Fasano, Director of the Center for Celiac Research at MassGeneral Hospital. “The FDA has devoted years of work to make sure the standard issued today was safe for celiac patients. Our research supports that standard,” he added
“We have worked closely with the FDA, providing input and offering the expertise of our members to make sure the rule met the needs of patients and minimized the impact on the ability of food manufacturers to deliver products to market,” said ACDA President Beth Hillson. “Now, we must turn our focus to partnering with FDA to educate patients, health professionals and industry about the standard and how it will benefit the entire community.”
Effective August 2, 2014, companies opting to label their products as gluten-free will be required to comply with the standard of less than 20ppm gluten. Once in place, celiac and gluten-sensitive consumers will be able to choose products with confidence.
“Creating a uniform definition for what gluten free means across all products will enable them to safely and easily navigate through the ever-expanding gluten free product aisles,” said TJ McIntyre, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Boulder Brands. The standard will also dramatically reduce the amount of time celiac and gluten-sensitive consumers spend contacting companies to obtain the information necessary to determine if a product is safe.
Scott Mandell, CEO of Enjoy Life Foods emphasized, “Our company is excited to know there is a clear standard and guidelines for making a gluten-free claim.” The company has been a pioneer in tracing the sources of ingredients used in its products, which are free from the top eight allergens as well. “Without a doubt, this standard will ease anxiety and confusion for those who must adhere to the gluten-free diet for medical reasons.”
The year FALCPA was signed into law, sales of gluten-free products were $560 million, and rose to $4.2 billion last year. By 2017, the sales of gluten-free foods and beverages are expected to exceed $6.6 billion. The skyrocketing growth in the market increased the need for FDA’s action to set a national gluten-free standard.