In terms of gluten-free eating, I have always learned that it’s an all-or-nothing approach. You must cut gluten completely (meaning 100%) out of your diet to ensure that your system is working properly.
Recently, however, I read an article about gluten-free legislative action being taken in the U.K. over gluten-free labeling. Under their legislation, foods can be labeled as “gluten-free” only if they contain less than 20 mg of gluten per kg of the product. This is common practice in most food manufacturing as a safe tolerable limit for indirect and unintentional food additives. When eating processed foods, it is common practice (under our own FDA guidelines) to accept that substances can accidentally get into foods during processing, production, packaging, and storage. As such, the FDA defines minimum permissible quantities of such unintended substances.
Research has found that people with celiac disease are able to eat a very small amount of gluten safely. Because it is not possible to test for absolutely no gluten, there must be a “tolerable” amount.
Moreover, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who are gluten intolerant are able to tolerate a very small amount of gluten safely. Now this amount does not mean a piece of bread or a tablespoon of soy sauce. People are able to tolerate these accidental inclusions of gluten without suffering hugely adverse affects (for the most part). The research concluded that the risk of damage to the small intestine through the consumption of gluten-free products containing less than 20 ppm of gluten was “very low,” calculating that only .47% of celiacs could be at risk of an adverse reaction.
This risk is covered under the “negligible risk” clause of the Food Additives Amendment act, added in 1966 by the FDA to allow for a “one in a million” risk of adverse affects. Though negligible, as always it is important to do what’s best for you. If you are incredibly sensitive to certain products, despite their “gluten-free” label, this could be why. Know what products keep you feeling healthy, and if processed food isn’t an option due to your sensitivity, keep reaching for the rice and corn products, fresh fruits and vegetables, and beans and meat – they’re all naturally gluten-free!