FDA Regulates Prepackaged Gluten Free Labeled Foods

By Joe Gullo , ABC News , Kristen Tripodi

Published 08/05 2014 12:14PM

Updated 08/05 2014 10:50PM

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - Starting Tuesday, "gluten free" labels on packaged foods have real meaning. Until now, the term "gluten free" had not been regulated, and manufacturers made their own decisions about what it means.

“People will sit here with a bag of pasta and read through it to make sure that everything is completely safe even though sometimes it will say that it is gluten free on the package itself,” said Trisha Hlastawa, the Director of Culture and Hospitality at Healthy Living Market in South Burlington.

But new regulations could save time for shoppers. The FDA now requires any food that’s labeled “gluten free” must have less than 20 parts per million of gluten in it. That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough so  that most people who have Celiac disease won't get sick if they eat it.

“It's super important especially for people with Celiac disease because they are looking for products that are completely safe for them,” said Hlastawa.

People who suffer from Celiac disease don't absorb nutrients well. They can get sick from the gluten found in wheat and other cereal grains.
Celiac disease causes abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea, and people who have it can suffer weight loss, fatigue, rashes and other long-term medical problems. 

But a product doesn't have to carry any claim about gluten even if it is gluten free. So the FDA warns if you have a gluten intolerance you should still pay attention to the ingredients.

Gluten-free foods have become big business in the last several years. Millions of people are buying the foods because they say they make them feel better, even if they don't have Celiac disease.

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