Celiac.com 02/06/2009 - The European Union’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued new rules for foods carrying the ‘gluten-free’ label. Under the new rules, foods labeled ‘gluten-free’ must have less than 20 parts of gluten per million. This new standard represents a ten-fold reduction over the prior rules, which set the gluten limit at 200 parts per million.
The FSA also established a separate labeling category for cereals that have been specially processed to reduce gluten to levels below 100 parts per million. These foods may not be labeled ‘gluten-free,’ but must carry some other label such as ‘gluten-reduced,’ or ‘very-low gluten.’ The FSA indicates that the exact labeling for such products should be undertaken at the national level.
Foods that are naturally gluten-free and acceptable for a gluten-free diet cannot be labeled as ‘gluten-free,’ or ‘special-diet,’ but may say that they are ‘naturally gluten-free.’ The rules require the term ‘gluten-free’ or ‘very-low gluten’ to appear prominently on the package label in a way that indicates the “true nature of the food.” These rules are designed to help people with celiac disease make more informed decisions about the gluten content of the food they eat.
The new rules provide strict definitions for gluten and related grains and proteins, and gluten-free foods, and mandates standards for testing and measuring gluten levels in food.
They also mandate that quantitative determination of gluten in foods and ingredients be based on an immunologic method or other method providing at least equal sensitivity and specificity, and that all testing done on equipment sensitive to gluten at 10 mg gluten/kg or below.
The rules cite the Enzyme-linked Immunoassay (ELISA) R5 Mendez method as the officially sanctioned qualitative analysis method for determining gluten presence in food.
European food makers can voluntarily adopt the new labeling system any time. Compliance becomes mandatory for all EU food makers on Jan. 1, 2012. Regarding the three-year delay, the FSA cited a need on the part of some manufacturers for time to make formulation and packaging changes.
* Sources: Food Standards Agency: New rules for 'gluten free' foods