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Gluten-Free Labels in Effect

Update Date: Aug 05, 2014 10:27 AM EDT

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) rule regarding the use of "Gluten-Free" labels has gone into effect this Tuesday. Now, all products carrying that label will inform customers that they are indeed free of gluten, which is a protein mainly found in grains.

Prior to the FDA's new law, there were no clear regulations on how companies could use the "gluten-free" label. Now, according to the agency, products made with the label must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The new regulations will help people on gluten-free diets to better avoid the protein. The majority of people who follow this strict diet plan have celiac disease, which means that their bodies cannot properly process gluten. When they consume it, they can suffer from gastrointestinal problems.

"A decade ago, our research determined that the prevalence of celiac disease in the United States was 1 in 133," said Dr. Alessio Fasano, Director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, in a statement. "Even then it was obvious that patients could not safely manage their diet without better labeling requirements. The FDA has devoted years of work to make sure the standard issued today was safe for celiac patients. Our research supports that standard."

"For people like myself, this is a medical necessity. My diet is my medicine," stated Beth Hillson, the president of the American Celiac Disease Association, reported by the Los Angeles Times. "This labeling rule makes it very clear cut. ... That gives me a lot more comfort. My son, who is 27, is also celiac, and he's out on his own and cooking. That gives me peace of mind for him as well."

Hilson authored an upcoming book titled, "The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free."

The regulation will not require all companies to use the label if they do not want to and it will not mandate companies to indicate that their products contain gluten. If food manufacturers decide to use the label, they must advertise their gluten-free products "in a truthful and not misleading manner," TIME reported. The agency added that any packaging that is found to be in violation of this rule "will be subject to regulatory action."

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