What to Know About Gluten-Free Foods
Posted on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 am
You may have seen some foods that were labeled “gluten-free” while you were grocery shopping. What does that mean? It is important to understand what gluten-free means and the health reasons why some people need foods that are free of gluten. The Food and Drug Administration has rules about what gluten-free means on a food label.
What is Gluten-Free?
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the name given to a mixture of proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. Gluten is also in crossbreeds of those grains. Most people can safely eat foods that contain gluten. Their bodies are able to break it down, digest it, and obtain nutrition from it. Gluten is also found as an additive to other foods because gluten can help foods maintain their shape.
Why Go Gluten-Free?
The reason why some people must avoid eating gluten is due to health reasons. There are about 3 million people in the United States who have celiac disease. When these people eat something that has gluten in it, their bodies react to the gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine. This causes harm that prevents the person from being able to properly digest food and to absorb nutrients.
There are also people who have an allergy to wheat, rye, barley, triticale, or all of the above. Others have a gluten intolerance. These people get very sick if they eat something that contains gluten. The symptoms that are caused from the body’s inability to digest gluten can linger for days after the person ate it.
People who do not have celiac disease, who do not have an allergy to wheat, rye, barley and/or triticale, and do not have an intolerance to gluten, have no good reason to go gluten-free. The gluten-free “diet” is not something that people should choose for the purpose of weight loss. There is no cure for celiac disease, allergies to gluten, or gluten intolerance. The only way to manage it is by dietary means.
New Rules for Food Labels
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued rules about what characteristics a food must have in order for the words “gluten-free” to appear on a food label. Those rules went into effect on August 5, 2014. Foods that have 20 ppm or more of gluten can no longer be labeled gluten-free.
In order for a food to be labeled gluten-free, it cannot contain…
…an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains.
…an ingredient derived from these grains that has not been processed to remove gluten.
…an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten.