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Strong Compliance with Gluten-Free Standards Mean Consumers Can Buy With Confidence

FDA shows overwhelming compliance with gluten-free labeling rules.


More than 99.5 percent of "gluten-free" food products meet the FDA gluten-free standard. Image: CC--Alte Wilde Korkmännchen

Celiac.com 11/01/2017 - Recent product testing by the FDA shows overwhelming compliance with FDA's requirement that foods labeled "gluten-free" have less than 20 parts per million detectable gluten.

According to the FDA, more than 99.5 percent of "gluten-free" food products met the agency's gluten-free standard, according to Carol D'Lima, a food technologist in FDA's Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling.

The FDA collected and analyzed 702 samples from more than 250 products labeled "gluten free." So far, D'Lima noted, only one product labeled as gluten-free tested positive for gluten levels above 20 ppm.

The FDA does not name the products that were tested, but does note that the failed product was "recalled and subsequent sampling by the FDA did not find levels of gluten that violated the regulation."

Also, the FDA testing very likely includes products by major manufacturers. That's likely good news for manufacturers like General Mills, which made news recently when they announced that they will voluntarily remove the "Gluten-Free" label from their Cheerios products in Canada.

The company says that it did not make the move due to any concerns about gluten levels, but due to a technicality over oat testing protocols under which oat products can be labeled "Gluten-Free."

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A statement from the company's website reads in part: "Each serving of Cheerios products in Canada are gluten free, as defined by the current regulatory standard of containing less than 20 ppm of gluten. General Mills Canada has made the decision to voluntarily remove the gluten-free label from our Cheerios products in Canada until Health Canada and The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) publish a consistent testing protocol for products containing oats. At this time the product is not changing, just the label on the box."

Absent any product recalls in the face of the FDA product testing, it's safe to assume that the consumers can take General Mills and other companies at their word, and trust that products labeled gluten-free meet FDA gluten-free standards, and are safe for people with celiac disease.

Such high compliance levels by food manufacturers mean that the FDA may now put more of their resources into other enforcement measure, including ensuring that the supply chain remains free from cross-contamination.

Even in the face of such encouraging test results, look for the FDA to remain diligent in validating "Gluten-Free" and other labeling claims. The FDA maintains "an ongoing compliance program," says D'Lima. Under that program, field staff in FDA district offices conduct inspections that include products labeled as gluten-free.

If any products are found to be out of compliance for gluten standards, the FDA notifies the company to make appropriate corrections, and works with the company to recall any mislabeled products on the market.

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