Be Cautious of Gluten-Free Labels

Be Cautious of Gluten-Free Labels

 by Molly, selected from Experience Life


Think you can have your gluten-free cake and eat it, too? Not so  fast.  Despite the hundreds of products that sport gluten-free labels,  the FDA has no  official standards to regulate the claim. For those  striving to limit their  gluten intake, that lack of regulation can be  frustrating. But for those with  celiac disease, hypersensitivities to  cereal grains, or certain autoimmune  diseases like Hashimoto’s  thyroiditis (in which the body mistakenly attacks the  thyroid), a  “gluten-free” food with traces of gluten can pose a serious health   threat. Fortunately, new rules likely to be unveiled later this year  should  clear up the confusion.

As it stands now, the FDA only requires companies to state whether  common  allergens, such as wheat or nuts, are ingredients in a product.  Labeling  regulations are lax for products potentially cross-contaminated  with allergens  during the manufacturing process — something that  happens frequently in  facilities that process a wide variety of foods.  That means small quantities of  gluten can easily sneak into products  labeled “gluten-free.”

The FDA is currently evaluating the issue. Many experts anticipate  that if  the FDA does adopt new regulations, they will mirror those  governing product  labeling in several European countries, which allow  companies to label  their products gluten-free if they contain fewer than  20 parts per million  (ppm) of gluten. Many researchers assert that  those levels are tolerable even  for people with celiac disease, says  Danna Korn, founder of Raising Our Celiac  Kids and author of Living Gluten-Free for Dummies (Wiley, 2010).

In the meantime, you can eliminate the guesswork by avoiding  processed foods  whenever possible. “The best way to avoid gluten is to  eat products that aren’t  manufactured,” says Korn. “Most natural, non-grain whole foods, such as  vegetables, fruits, meats, legumes and fish,  are  inherently gluten-free.”