The number of people with gluten allergy or celiac disease is growing. It is estimated that 3 million Americans suffer from celiac disease and five times as many may have some sort of gluten sensitivity. Although it is often called a gluten allergy, the disease is actually an autoimmune problem.
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration announced a set definition for “gluten-free” food labeling. Their new definition of gluten-free indicates the food can not contain more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, which has been the accepted standard by the European Union. That threshold has been considered tolerable for most people who cannot tolerate gluten. Food manufacturers will have a year to bring their labels into compliance.
The treatment of celiac disease is gluten avoidance, and for some, the labeling could have a mathematical drawback. Although it defines a concentration threshold, it does not define an absolute content level. For example, if one ate several foods just under the threshold to be considered gluten-free, the total gluten ingested could still be an issue. Those affected still need to educate themselves on the proper diet in order to understand what foods do not contain gluten versus foods labeled “gluten-free,” which may contain a small and hopefully inconsequential amount of gluten. At least the FDA definition is a step toward standardization.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to create a doctor-patient relationship with any reader. If you need personalized medical advice, contact your primary care physician or other physician in your community.