Gluten Free

Last Friday, the USFDA announced more regulations (because there aren’t enough of those already).  Yesterday those regulations were officially published in the Federal Register, which means that food manufacturers have one year to comply with the new food-labeling rules.  The US now has an official definition of the term gluten free.

The final rule defines the term “gluten-free” to mean that the food bearing the claim does not contain an ingredient that is a gluten-containing grain (e.g., spelt wheat); an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour); or an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat starch), if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food (i.e., 20 milligrams (mg) or more gluten per kilogram (kg) of food); or inherently does not contain gluten; and that any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food is below 20 ppm gluten (i.e., below 20 mg gluten per kg of food).

Since the FDA will have to enforce the regulation, they chose 20ppm as the cut-off, because 1) that’s the level that they claim can be scientifically validated by testing, and 2) medical advisors say that those who must avoid gluten can usually tolerate trace amounts.

Saying that 10mg of gluten per day is safe for most people with celiac, Health Canada cited 20ppm in similar regulations published last year.

It is prohibited to label, package, sell or advertise a food in a manner likely to create an impression that it is a gluten-free food if the food contains any gluten protein or modified gluten protein, including any gluten protein fraction, referred to in the definition “gluten” …

“gluten”

(a) any gluten protein from the grain of any of the following cereals or the grain of a hybridized strain created from at least one of the following cereals:

(i) barley,
(ii) oats,
(iii) rye,
(iv) triticale, or
(v) wheat, kamut or spelt; or

(b) any modified gluten protein, including any gluten protein fraction, that is derived from the grain of any of the cereals referred to in subparagraphs (a)(i) to (v) or the grain of a hybridized strain referred to in paragraph (a).

Tight regulation is helpful to those who can’t tolerate gluten, but listing “oats” as a gluten-containing food is ludicrous. Oats do not contain gluten, and when farmers are not rotating gluten-containing crops with their oat crops, there is zero chance of cross-contact. How sad that shoppers in Canada will not have any way to find certified GF oats, even though there are GF oats on the market.

soapboxThe correct terminology is “cross contact” not “cross contamination.” In the food industry, cross-contamination refers to bacteria. For instance, we don’t want bacteria from meat to get on our other foods so we use separate cutting boards for meat and produce. We don’t want fertilizer made from pig waste (this fertilizer contains bacteria) sprayed on vegetables that people are going to be eating raw because the bacteria can make people sick.  Cross contamination is bad.  Cross contact, on the other hand, is when two different foods come in contact with one another.  It is only a problem for those with food allergies/intolerances. If you fry your eggs in butter, someone who can normally eat eggs but who is allergic to dairy products cannot eat those eggs due to the cross-contact because butter is a dairy product. If you measure flour, then dip that measuring cup into the sugar canister, people who are sensitive to gluten cannot afterward have any sugar from your sugar canister due to the flour (gluten) cross-contact.

There are many good resources for people who need to eat gluten free.  It would make sense to simply eat meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables to be assured of a healthy diet that contains no gluten.  However, people often begin eating GF by looking for substitutes for their favorite bread, muffins, pizza, granola, etc.

For good recipes and helpful tips:

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