For the one percent of the population with celiac disease (an estimated 3 million people,) accurate food labeling is a critical health issue. The words 'gluten free' on a package go way beyond being trendy. Rather, they mean that the consumer's immune system will not go awry, making antibodies that will damage their intestines and cause a wide range of symptoms.
To make sure that the label 'gluten free' has a consistent meaning across foods and brands, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a rule in August of 2013 that defined “gluten-free” for food labeling. A year was given for companies to become compliant meaning that their food must contain amounts of gluten under 20 parts per million (ppm).
Now, almost two years later, there is evidence regarding how diligent gluten free food producers are. The FDA checked gluten free food for the presence of gluten and recently published the results. They tested 702 individual samples from three groups (cereals, grain bars and flours). More than 250 types of products were analyzed as part of the assignment.
In good news for celiac disease patients, all but five samples, out of the total number, contained levels of gluten higher than 20 ppm - that's only 0.7 percent.The five failing samples all fell under the category of "Oat Flakes, Rolled Oats, Puffs, Krispies, Loops Ready to Eat." And, the levels of gluten in the failing category were found to be anywhere between 24.4 ppm to 43 ppm - still very low.
In a quick response by the manufacturer, not only were the five samples voluntarily recalled, but, the manufacturer is undergoing a thorough analysis to find the problem and implementing immediate measures to correct the problem.
This is good news for celiac patients. They can have full faith in the labeling of their gluten free foods and trust that companies are taking the gluten free status incredibly seriously.
The report "Test Results from the FDA's FY 2015/16 Domestic Gluten-Free Sample Collection Assignment" can be found here.