Aug 5th Gluten Free FDA Labeling Just a Start

Why the Gluten Free FDA labeling ruling matters

August 5th is a huge day for the gluten-free community. I tried to put together all you need to know about this day in celiac history for you based on information from key celiac organizations and the FDA. Most of the information is based on NFCA webinars are located here and here – with a follow-up PDF from the webinar here. Also, a Q&A for the Gluten-Free Food Labeling Final Rule via the FDA is here. As you can see here, the labeling ruling is really just a start. There is so much more to be done in the celiac universe.

When does it start? 

The compliance date is August 5th 2014.

“Gluten-Free” labeled food 

  • CAN’T CONTAIN Ingredients that are a gluten-containing grain
  • CAN’T CONTAIN Ingredients derived from a gluten-containing grain that haven’t been processed to remove gluten
  • CAN CONTAIN Ingredients derived from a gluten-containing grain that HAVE been processed to remove gluten (ex. CODEX wheat starch) if the final testing of that is less than 20ppm. If what is in the ingredient statement or “contains wheat” on FALCPA – it must also say that “the wheat has been processed to allow this food to meet the FDA requirements for gluten-free foods.”
  • CAN BE LABELED GF IF IT’S Food that inherently doesn’t contain gluten
  • CAN BE LABELED GF IF Any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food is less than 20ppm. I’ve had several questions from people who claim to react to gluten under 20ppm. I would recommend that they stick to certified gluten-free items from certifications organizations that certify at 10ppm or 5ppm (see below).
  • HOWEVER This does not apply to hydrolyzed protein because ELISA methods cannot quantify gluten in these foods.

Where needs are not met by the ruling

  • This does not apply to alcohol, medications, cosmetics, USDA foods (like meat), and pet food. Fingers crossed that medication is what’s next on FDA’s plate.
  • This does not necessarily apply to restaurants, even though the FDA expects restaurants to use “gluten free” to be consistent with the FDA guidelines. They can only “expect” the restaurant industry to bring its labeling into compliance. FDA hopes to work with state and local government partners in respect to labeling in restaurants. I think this is a huge issue in our community and this should be on their radar for ASAP needs in my opinion.
  • Oats are not considered a gluten-containing grain in this FDA ruling, so please be sure to look for oats that are labeled gluten-free, and the final product labeled gluten-free. However, as we probably all know, some celiacs cannot tolerate gluten-free oats regardless of their gluten-containing content.

What should I look for on the package? 

“Gluten-free” is ALSO “no gluten” “free of gluten” and “without gluten” – BUT NOT “made without gluten ingredients,” or “not made with gluten-containing ingredients” or the like.

By in my opinion – just look for the seal! Just like before, make sure you look for a certified seal on your food – as its the most trustworthy (because they paid money to have someone inspect their food!). The Gluten Intolerance Group seal of GFCO is the most noteworthy in my opinion, and certifies to less than 10ppm. The Celiac Sprue Association seal certifies to 5ppm. A new certification from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness also tests for 10ppm and less.

What happens if you get sick? 

Keep the food and the package in case someone has to investigate it (FDA’s Consumer Complaint Coordinators across the US).

What are you most excited about? Do you think that you’ll see some real changes in grocery stores or restaurants? Do you think this regulation will make a real difference in the celiac community?

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Comments: 19

  1. linda suibielski August 4, 2014 at 3:16 pm Reply

    wanted to thank you Erica for all the information that you give us. I think you are a
    life saver love ya,linda

  2. Jen August 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm Reply

    The CODEX wheat that has been removed to below 20 ppm can’t be labeled as gluten free?

    I found something that had the labeling and said CODEX wheat but also certified GF. Completely confused me so I gave it away. The labeling on the product wasn’t great (something else was off as well) so I figured better safe than sorry.

    • Erica Dermer August 5, 2014 at 8:44 am Reply

      Thank you for sharing this! I totally just edited it to clarify the statement. It CAN be labeled GF if it’s a gluten-grain that has been processed to remove the gluten IF they say on the label that it’s processed to remove the gluten (ex. CODEX wheat starch). Hopefully it makes more sense the way it’s written now.

      • Jen August 5, 2014 at 9:07 pm Reply

        Oh this does make sense thanks! I’m still annoyed with the company because while this might have been OK the nut part was made in a facility that processes wheat but it didn’t say that on the box only on the packaging for the actual nuts (it was a shelf stable meal that I was testing out to see which ones I’d like for plane trips and the like). So because 2 of the 5 items had weird stuff I was a bit concerned but hadn’t had time to call the company. So I’m glad to know it’s only 1 of the 5 items I need to follow up with them about.

        Every time you think you know what you’re doing you realize there is so much more to lose. Thanks for all your posts and helps. I learn new things every time.

      • Lou Falco August 10, 2014 at 4:05 pm Reply

        Hi Erica,
        thanks for this information. I had just wrote to Columbia Medical center in NY, as they are supposed to a leader in Celiac awareness. I don’t know if this is a true statement.
        My question to them was about concerns in restaurants, such as do they use the same pot/pans as they use for other customers? Are they using GF bread crumbs, spices, and other such items? Will the FDA start to educate the industry, with a program to have their restaurant certified GF? The chef certified?
        Thanks for all you do.
        Lou
        Toms River NJ

  3. Homa August 4, 2014 at 9:57 pm Reply

    Fantastic overview, Erica, especially with highlighting what is not covered!

  4. Nicole August 5, 2014 at 5:16 am Reply

    Great article Erica just shared on my fb page!

  5. Christina August 9, 2014 at 4:13 am Reply

    Thank you for the enlightening article. Many of our products come from our neighbors south of the border. In Canada, we have already been following this, and, generally speaking, it is quite informative. However, not all companies are labeling whether or not their food has been manufactured on equipment that also processes gluten-containing foods. Eventhough there appears to be no gluten in the ingredients list on an item, there could still be cross contamination from the processing. One must contact individual companies for this information. Smart companies are getting their food tested, so that they can place the Gluten Free Stamp on it. They recognize the value in cornering a market which is growing at a great rate of knots!!

  6. Mary August 9, 2014 at 6:15 am Reply

    The key is for restaurants to be made aware or have a gluten-free area or dedicated space for preparing and cooking g-f foods. I’ve been to a restaurant here in Denver, Parisi’s, which
    claims it serves a g-f pizza, which it does, however, it’s prepared elsewhere, but put together next to the area where regular gluten containing flour pizzas are made. When brought to the mgr’s attention, he just shrugged his shoulders as if he didn’t care. Don’t think he bothered to find out that g-f food must be prepared and handled differently than gluten-containing foods.

    For restaurants to be able to maintain their reputation in serving actual g-f foods made in a dedicated g-f kitchen, it is essential that they have specific rules in place in order to do so responsibly as liability will be huge for them if they state such g-f foods are sold, but not prepared totally g-f.

  7. ada August 9, 2014 at 6:36 am Reply

    i only wish restaurants would train their waitresses also…..i have had celiac 1 year now and i have seen alot of changes…so i am thankful for that….thanks for all the infomation…i like foods simple and not a long list of items….and use of 1 flour..which i use cup 4 cup or domata..thanks.

  8. Louise August 9, 2014 at 8:47 am Reply

    So glad to hear that labelling is changing – very important for gluten intolerant as well – even though it may not be life threatening, other issues arise and it’s good to know you are there in our corner. Thank you Erica.

  9. Heidi August 9, 2014 at 10:51 am Reply

    Thanks so much for this information! We do not have Celiac, but we do have a child who goes into anaphylactic shock if he has wheat, barley, oats or rye. We are so thankful that there’s movement forward on this front.

  10. mike rapsa August 9, 2014 at 12:31 pm Reply

    needs to be 0 – ppm to be truly gluten free.

  11. geoffsantoliquido August 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm Reply

    I wonder if foods I’ve been buying that claimed to be GF will disappear from the shelf now. For example, we recently bought some pasta that was plainly labeled Gluten Free but also had the “processed in facility that also processes wheat” on the package. This pasta was on the “clearance” shelf just a week ago. We didn’t use it when we spotted that language. The new rules would clarify this situation as I understand the pasta would now be tested to ensure <20 million ppms and would be safe despite the mixed facility, right? Anyway, I'm guessing this wasn't tested and thus the store wanted to get rid of it ahead of the deadline.

  12. Carmen August 9, 2014 at 10:00 pm Reply

    Thank you for helping us improve our knowledge of labels in our gluttonand dairy products. Do you think the FDA would conside lowering the prices on glutton products. It’s very expensive including eating out. Thank you , Carmen

  13. Michelle August 12, 2014 at 10:19 am Reply

    My biggest pet peeve is manufacturers who put the “Process in a facility that also processes wheat” or “May contain some wheat” on their packages along with “Gluten free.” Goya foods proceeded to send me a list of their “gluten free” foods when I wrote them with this complaint. To me, that’s fraud. I hope that soon that too will be illegal.

  14. Michele August 14, 2014 at 1:51 pm Reply

    So grateful for the FDA ruling, which took effect on my birthday! However, it is just one step in the right direction. I’ve been GF and DF for one year now, and here are a few things I’ve learned:
    *ALWAYS read the label on EVERY packaged food you buy. Look for GF certification and don’t trust foods made with ‘good manufacturing practices’ or ‘made on shared equipment.’
    *When dining out, it’s best to call ahead and speak with the restaurant manager about your dietary needs. Most are willing to help find you a safe meal. Call btw. 2 -4 pm, NOT during the lunch or dinner rush.
    *If you haven’t called ahead, ask to speak w/ the restaurant’s Food and Beverage Manager or the “Person in Charge” about your dietary needs. Do Not trust a waiter or waitress to properly convey or even understand your needs. Same goes for the ‘chef’ who may be a teenage cook. The manager will make sure you get a safe meal b/c they want your repeat business.
    *Consider joining the Gluten Intolerance Group – they have restaurant cards you can present to food managers that explain your needs, including the importance of clean utensils, pots, pans and workspaces.
    Good luck and be vigilant!

  15. Sharon August 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm Reply

    Hi Erica,

    I believe this FDA labeling for GF products also covers dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, acidophilus, etc.) as the original FALCPA falls under FDA’s Food and Dietary Supplements umbrella. I know people worry about this.
    http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm362880.htm

    It is really a shame that FDA cannot apply FALCPA and this new labeling mandate to the inactive ingredients of prescription drugs that are many times food-based products – as this is where 99.9% of the issues are for celiac and other folks. The proposed bill Gluten in Meds Disclosure Act would address gluten (wheat, barley, rye, etc. products) but will do little for folks with food allergies or for those with celiac who also have issues with things like soy, lactose, iron, seaweed additives like carrageenan and alginate(s) – never mind talc – that are common inactive ingredients used in producing prescription medications.

    As it is now FALCPA needs to be updated to include corn and other new food allergens, but it just seems that if prescription meds contain food products in the inactive ingredients then FALCPA – while not under the Prescription Medication umbrella – should also cover prescription medications.

  16. Sarah September 10, 2014 at 8:22 pm Reply

    Does anyone else find the loophole for “made without gluten ingredients,” or “not made with gluten-containing ingredients” as outrageous as I do? It makes me want to cry that even the simplest labeling request, designed purely to safeguard health, can be circumvented with the aid of a well-placed lobbyist – at least I assume that is how this happened. It breaks my heart to watch my teenage daughter as she tires to navigate this minefield.

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