We all see the label “gluten-free” slapped onto a wide array of products now – everything from frozen peas to breads – but it hasn’t been a strictly regulated label. This was bad news for those with celiac, a hypersensitivity to gluten that can damage the digestive tract. Someone with celiac shouldn’t eat a product that contains more than 20 parts per million, or ppm, of gluten. Any more gluten than that, and someone with celiac disease is likely to have severe digestive discomfort and other uncomfortable reactions. 

The thing is, gluten-free doesn’t mean a product is literally gluten-free, it just means that it has much less gluten than most products. There is a variance in how much gluten those who are gluten-sensitive or who are celiac can handle. Some gluten-free companies keep their products even lower at 5-10 ppm. The majority of those who suffer from celiac or gluten-sensitivity find the 20 ppm threshold safe for them; it is the accepted standard in many different countries for “gluten-free." 

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration set the ball rolling on the requirement that products labeled as gluten-free in the U.S. be 20 ppm or lower. And today, those regulations go into effect, according to Time magazine. This is a crucial step in food safety. 

The term is still used voluntarily by companies, but the FDA requires it to be used in “in a truthful and not misleading manner." If companies don’t meet the new requirements, the FDA will enforce the new standards through regulatory action. 

With an estimated 1 in 133 Americans affected by celiac, this is an important step forward in food safety, and one that plenty of people in America will appreciate.

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