Back in March, I wrote about the FDA’s proposed gluten free labeling laws. At the time, while I was still frustrated with the lenient 20 ppm gluten, at the very least I was pleased with the FDA’s decision to outlaw gluten derived ingredients in gluten foods.
This is a huge controversy. Should gluten grain by-products that have had the gluten “taken out of them” be allowed in gluten free products? Can it actually be done in a way that makes it safe?
Some people are OK with this. Others are not, including some who have actually been glutened by gluten grains that supposedly had the gluten taken out of them. But back in March, the FDA was apparently concerned enough about it to make sure it wasn’t included in gluten free foods.
Well as it turns out, the FDA has changed their tune.
The gluten free labeling laws have passed. And see what they changed at the very last minute.
How Does FDA Define ‘Gluten-Free’?
In addition to limiting the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 ppm, FDA will allow manufacturers to label a food “gluten-free” if the food does not contain any of the following:
- an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains
- an ingredient derived from these grains and 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
Well well well.
This means that you could be eating wheat and your labels would still say “gluten free”.
This means that, in the eyes of the FDA:
And the gluten free label won’t bother telling you which is which.
The interesting thing about this is that it is in direct opposition to another branch of the US government, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Their ruling back in May of 2012 was in relation to gluten free beer, which full article you can read here.
The gist of the TTBs ruling on gluten grain ingredients was in this line, which is a direct quote:
Because products made from ingredients that contain gluten may, despite processing to remove gluten, still contain gluten that cannot be detected using available testing methods, the Ruling distinguishes between products that are made from ingredients that contain gluten and those that are not.
Funny… So why does the FDA allow gluten grain ingredients? Why do they say that the gluten can be removed?
With even the US government contradicting itself, it seems to leave this issue even more muddled than before.
… Or does it?
First off, the TTB ruling was pending FDA labeling. Currently, FDA labeling doesn’t cover beer, but it’s very likely the TTB will adopt the FDA’s standards now that they are official.
But the question is- Why? Why would there be two different opinions on gluten derived ingredients on gluten free labeling, even within our government?
First, we’d have to answer why anyone would want or need to use gluten grain ingredients, even with the gluten “removed” from the products. For this, there are pretty much two answers.
Because yes, gluten grains really do taste different sometimes. However, this is far more a problem in beer than any other product. I mean, beer without hops? It’s possible! But it took a lot of creativity and testing for companies to come up with something that tasted like a beer and didn’t include gluten grains.
But remember. Using gluten grains isn’t even allowed in gluten free beer, and it won’t be until the TTB makes their probable changes. One of the few places that it really really matters and it’s illegal right now. It was illegal in the first gluten-related ruling in the US government.
So… What’s the other reason?
Yes, money. Gluten grains are cheap. Even “gluten-less” gluten grains are cheap. It’s easy to find them, it’s easy to use them.
So who is the FDA trying to cater to here? The Celiacs who need gluten free? Or the companies who want to sell it to them?
Unfortunately, the answer seems pretty clear. The FDA decided to cast it’s net wider because it could get away with it and it would allow more companies to jump on the bandwagon.
This isn’t for us. It’s for big business.
But this is our health we’re talking about! If there’s any doubt that something could hurt Celiacs, our government shouldn’t be allowing it.
This is making history. It sets a precedence that could take years to overcome. This is what our Celiac kids will be dealing with unless we make a big enough fuss about it and make things change.