If only every packaged food had a GF designation for Gluten-Free and a NGF designation for Not Gluten-Free, the lives of those living gluten-free would be immeasurably easier. However, because this is not the case and there is still much progress and enhancements to be made on gluten-free and allergen labeling regulations, learning how to accurately read food labels is a prerequisite for gluten-free living now and in the near future.
The decision to purchase a food depends on the information provided on the label by the food manufacturer, but if the information is not fully or accurately disclosed, how can you make the best, most informed purchase you can? Until recently, there have been no uniform recommendations or specific protocol by the United States government that guides manufacturers in how to accurately label their products as gluten-free. However, on January 23, 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a proposed ruling on food labeling practices.
Without getting too technical about the language of gluten-free labeling regulations, the ruling currently provides the following criteria and new details and updates are expected to be unveiled in 2008:
• The definition of “gluten-free” means that a food or beverage has less than 20 ppm of gluten.
• For a food to be labeled gluten-free, it can not contain an ingredient from a “prohibited grain,” which means an ingredient from any species of wheat, rye, barley or a crossbred hybrid of the grains such as triticale. But if an ingredient is processed to remove the gluten and falls below the 20 ppm threshold, it can be labeled gluten-free.
• A food will be considered “misbranded” if it does not adhere to the gluten-free criteria set forth in the ruling. Foods like milk and eggs that are naturally gluten-free cannot be labeled gluten-free. The ruling also suggests how a gluten-free claim by a manufacturer must be worded for foods containing oats or other foods that are by nature gluten-free, but still run a risk of containing gluten.
Reality check: Regardless of future labeling practices, you still need to become and remain a savvy consumer in the art of reading food labels.