Good news, as of last week, there is officially a federal labeling standard in the United States for the term “Gluten-free”. The standard is no more than 20 parts per million (ppm) in the product. At least one manufacturer—Boulder Brands—guarantees less than 10 ppm. And, of course, an apple from the tree in your yard is guaranteed zero. 🙂
I suppose some may debate whether 20ppm is low enough, but what it does guarantee is government oversight and assurance that the product is legitimately one manufactured free of gluten-containing ingredients, with attention to preventing cross-contamination, with knowledge and understanding by the processor of what gluten is and what gluten-free entails.
As someone who has attempted a gluten-free diet for just over three years and counting, the last is non-trivial. The number of times I’ve requested information about food ingredients and gotten responses like, “Gluten? No, there’s no gluten in that. Just flour.” Yeah. See, if you mean wheat flour, that’s got gluten. Sorry.
So, as School House Rocky taught us, Knowledge is Power. The testing standards give the government power to review what the manufacturers are actually producing and distributing, the label gives the consumer the power to make an informed decision. If 20 ppm of gluten is too much for your tummy, you don’t have to buy it. But at least you know what gluten-free means now, officially. At least on a label at the grocery store. And now it does mean *something*. Even if wheat, barley or rye is listed as an ingredient. Even if there is reason to believe the product was produced in a facility that makes mainstream, gluten-containing products that raise the possibility of cross-contamination. And if a product doesn’t meet the standard, they can’t use the label.
Considering it is only sixty or so years since the relationship between gluten and celiac disease was isolated and accepted definitively, this is a lot of progress.
To Progress, wherever we may find it.