Consumer Reaction to FDA’s Definition of Gluten-Free in Food Labeling

News of the FDA defining gluten-free in food labeling has received a lot of media play since it was announced earlier this month.

For those of you who may have missed it, the net net is that the US Food and Drug Administration published a new regulation which defines the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling. This provides a uniform standard to help the roughly 3 million Americans who have celiac disease. The full announcement can be found here.

The FDA requires that, in order to use the term “gluten-free” on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

Consumer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. However, 20PPM is still a real health risk for those with acute gluten allergies. Consumers are also asking how the FDA will regulate those 20PPM. Will every product be consistently checked for gluten? Are products allowed to be made in a non-dedicated gluten-free facility and still earn the gluten-free label?

Here at Triumph Dining we’re excited about the move forward by the FDA. What are your thoughts?

12 thoughts on “Consumer Reaction to FDA’s Definition of Gluten-Free in Food Labeling”

  1. “However, 20PPM is still a real health risk for those with acute gluten allergies.” Celiacs aren’t allergic to gluten we are intolerant.
    That said 20 ppm is 20 to much for most of us.

  2. I agree that 20 ppm is 20 too much for it to be gluten free. I wonder how many people would be willing to eat food that is 20 ppm gasoline! When you realize that gluten is poison to a person with celiac disease, the 20 ppm is an unacceptable level. It will add up; the damage is cumulative; and I doubt there will be anyone testing 100% of production for 20 ppm.

  3. From what I understand, the 20ppm standard was established in the USA based on the standard required in Europe. It is not arbitrary.

    Re. emagef, I believe that Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are different conditions. For individuals with Celiac (myself included), exposure to gluten triggers a reaction from our immune system that causes systemic damage to our bodies. My sister is soy and dairy intolerant. While she feels bloated and uncomfortable following ingestion of either substance, she does not have an autoimmune disease that is attacking her body. The owner of a sandwich shop with gluten-aware employees told me to use the following phrase when ordering “severe gluten allergy.” I’ve found the phrase indispensable when eating at other establishments. Celiac disease is more than having an unhappy body (like my sister’s after dairy). Our bodies attack themselves. If “allergy” is defined as: “an abnormal reaction of the body to a previously encountered allergen introduced by inhalation, ingestion, injection, or skin contact, often manifested by itchy eyes, runny nose, wheezing, skin rash, or diarrhea” (, then surely Celiacs qualify.

  4. When I first saw this, I thought it sounded strange. I thought it was common sense that for a food to be gluten-free, it has to be gluten-free, which means, no gluten. My five year old daughter has Celiac and I was told by doctors and have read many times that ingesting even a smidge of gluten can irritate her stomach. This is very frustrating news to hear.

  5. I believe the 20 ppm standard was established several years ago and may be grossly misunderstood and mis- represented. If you take the time to figure out what the standard really means in terms the average person can understand, it basically amounts to a drop in the ocean.
    It is an infinitesimal amount too small for the naked eye to see and is the smallest amount which can be tested effectively, according to reports I have read. While it is believed some celiacs and some non-celiac gluten sensitive people may be more sensitive that others, much of the gluten-free food we consume may contain that one tiny speck of gluten. Most people will not suffer adverse effects. In order to obtain gluten-free certification, manufacturers need to do the testing. Furthermore, consumers are encouraged to call the 800 number on the label if there are any concerns. Often enough, folks who have a reaction to a product may be experiencing allergies to soy, dairy or other allergens and not gluten at all.

  6. Well, at least they gave a more specific regulation rather than none at all. It is a good step in the right direction.

  7. Sybil Nassau must work for the FDA to make a statement like “Most people will not suffer adverse reactions.” Well, it is so nice to know that “most” people (does that mean 51% of celiacs) won’t be permanently damaged by the rule. I suggest Sybil read the preceding posts for a better take on what is in danger with this regulation.


  8. I think this is a good thing. I don’t see how any person can say they will react to 20 ppm. How can you know how much gluten has caused your reaction without some measurement? 20 ppm is 0.00002 gluten content. In order to test for 20 ppm vs say 50 ppm you have to be able to measure down to 0.000002 for a gross measurement or 0.0000002 for an accurate measurement, which is practically impossible. You would have to start counting molecules. There is a lot of emotion around this and I can understand that. There is no more memorable complaint than stomach disorder, especially if suffered as a child, which I think most of us have experienced. We really need to step back, take the emotion out of the debate and listen to the science… otherwise, please prove to me that you have reacted to 20 ppm – oh, you can’t.

  9. the people who have issues with 20ppm have no concept of how big a million is compared to 20. try educating yourself on the actionable level of foreign matter in food as regulated by the fda –

    some food can have 20% or more (200,000 parts per million) contaminated with “mammalian excreta” and no one is sounding the alarm for poop in food. some food can have 10,000 or more parts per million that are insect pieces.

  10. just thought i would clarify what 20 ppm would approximate in terms of drops of water. A fair analogy would be 4 drops per quart(or liter) Do the test yourself with a dropper and water and find a good mathematician. but thats a fair approximation. As a celiac, No Way I’m falling for the FDA’s “safety level.”

  11. All I know is I have a very sensitive rash that flares up even when I eat some processed foods that should be gluten free and even some foods labeled gluten free. I eliminate the offender and the rash goes away. A few examples of these foods have been; chocolate chips labeled “made in a gluten free facility”, Nuts, not labeled processed on the same equipment as…wheat”, hot chocolate mixes claiming to be gluten free, plain popcorn, and many candies that are on gluten free lists, even one bar that claimed to be tested to 20ppm. I guess since most of these things have been junk food I won’t die without them but I really hate the guessing game. And either the testing wasn’t right or 20ppm wasn’t gluten free enough.

  12. I have Celiac Sprue and cannot even tolerate certified GF oats.
    Once I kissed my husband and tasted beer even though
    he wiped his mouth. I was sick for three days. Not fun.

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