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FDA Finally Defines ‘Gluten-Free’

Update Date: Aug 03, 2013 11:04 AM EDT

In recent years, more and more people are learning about the potential health benefits of a gluten-free diet. Although gluten-free diets are prescribed for people with celiac disease, with celebrities, such as Miley Cyrus, praising a gluten-free diet in helping her get lean and fit, this type of diet has definitely gained popularity. Now, more restaurants and food manufacturers have made the smart move to add more gluten-free items to their menus or shelves. However, despite the shift toward a gluten-free diet, the definition of gluten-free was not standardized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until this past week.

According to the FDA, it has finally created a standard for food manufacturers to follow when it comes to gluten free products. These standards were finalized after six years of consideration. Now, all products that contain the label, gluten-free, cannot contain more than 20 parts per million of gluten. The FDA stated that any amount less than 20 parts will not make people with celiac disease sick.

"This standard 'gluten-free' definition will eliminate uncertainty about how food producers label their products," Michael Taylor, the FDA deputy foods commissioner said.

Food companies can use the synonymous labels 'no gluten,' 'free of gluten' and 'without gluten.' They have one whole year to comply with this new guideline but the FDA has expressed that these companies should try and meet the guidelines as soon as possible. The final date to fully comply is on Aug 5 2014. The definition was set to protect people with celiac disease, which is a condition in which the body cannot ingest gluten. People will celiac disease can suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhea and bloating if they intake too much gluten.

"[The new standard will] help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health," commented the FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg.

Although this new definition is meant to help people with celiac disease, which is around three million in the United States, people who have picked up this diet for other reasons can rejoice as well.  According to the American Celiac Disease Alliance, nearly four billion dollars is spent on gluten-free products within the U.S. per year.

The operations director at the Celiac Disease Foundation, Hillary Kane added, "The entire community is elated."

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