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'Gluten Free' now defined by the FDA

Grocery shopping is tricky business. The sad truth is, the things we read on food packages are often misleading. The processed food companies are keenly aware of the fact that certain words or phrases appeal to consumers, and therefore boost sales.

Lately one of the most popular selling-points is, "gluten free."

Have you noticed how many food items have the words "gluten free" on the package? Gluten-free foods have become such a popular food choice lately. But what does "gluten-free" mean, exactly?

The answer was announced recently by the FDA. They recently declared that food manufacturers must meet certain criteria before slapping the phrase "gluten free" on their packages. This way, when shoppers see the "gluten free" on a label, they know what they're getting... each and every time.

The new regulation requires that, in order to use the term "gluten-free" on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims "no gluten," "free of gluten," and "without gluten" to meet the definition for "gluten-free."

This uniformity is intended to protect the 3 million people with Celiac Disease, but also people with gluten sensitivity, as well as those, such as myself, who simply want to avoid gluten for overall good health. We don't need it and I believe we are better off without it. Gluten comes from carbohydrates and a high carbohydrate diet is linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Gluten is a term that describes the proteins that are in wheat, rye, and barley. People with Celiac Disease must avoid gluten because it triggers antibodies that attack the small intestine. When that happens it's very painful and can even lead to devastating consequences like intestinal cancer and infertility.

Today I spoke with Alice Bast, president of the National Foundation For Celiac Awareness. She reacted to the new regulation by stating, "we are thrilled that the FDA has come out with this ruling. This has been a long time coming. It's important that our community be kept safe."

She said her organization is satisfied with the 20 ppm standard, noting that it appears be safe level even for Celiac patients with extreme gluten sensitivity.

Bast pointed out, however, that the food manufacturers have a full year to comply. She also noted that the labeling is voluntary. Furthermore, she warned consumers to understand that if a product claims to be "wheat free," this does not mean it is "gluten free" because a "wheat free" product might still contain rye and/or barley.

Do you sometimes wonder if you have a gluten sensitivity or possibly even Celiac Disease? There are many symptoms, not every person experiences the same ones. Gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea, cramping, bloating or constipation are quite common.

But there are others, like headaches and depression. Lots of times people with these symptoms are incorrectly diagnosed with some other type of disorder and still others simply suffer needlessly with these awful symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

I've known people who have never been formally diagnosed, but who simply choose to remove gluten from their diet and noticed an amazing improvement in their health almost instantly, along with the added benefit of weight loss.

CeliacCentral.org is a wonderful resource if you have celiac disease or are curious about Celiac Disease or gluten insensitivity.

Here are additional links on the new labeling regulation: