Regulations that tell consumers just what it means when a product is labeled "gluten free" take effect today — a "major milestone," said one of the leading experts on gluten disorders.
"The gluten-free diet for someone with celiac disease is like insulin for diabetics," said Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of the recent book Gluten Freedom.
The Food and Drug Administration has determined that, as of today, packaged food labeled "gluten free" (or similar claims such as "free of gluten") cannot contain more than 20 parts per million of gluten. (Another agency regulates meat and poultry.) One caveat is that use of the gluten-free label is voluntary; there is no requirement that a package containing gluten must declare that.
People who have the autoimmune disorder celiac disease can become very sick if they eat the tiniest amount of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
The market for gluten-free foods tops $6 billion, with a counterpart for cookies, cakes, pizzas and just about every food containing gluten, analysts say.