The Food and Drug Administration has announced a new standard for gluten-restricted labels
, setting a consistent benchmark for manufacturers and giving assurances for the public concerned about celiac disease.
Until last Friday, the term "gluten free" had not been regulated, and manufacturers made their own decisions about what it meant, according to The Associated Press
. Under the new FDA rule foods will need to contain less than 20 parts per million of wheat, rye, barley and their derivatives to get the "gluten-free" label.
That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough so that most people who have celiac disease won't get sick if they eat it.
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"For people with celiac disease, it is a major step for the FDA to at last issue its ruling concerning gluten-free foods," Dr. Peter Green of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University told the Hudson Valley Reporter
"Celiac disease is very common but remarkably under-diagnosed. This ruling will increase awareness and facilitate further diagnoses," said Green. "Many people have worked behind the scenes to push legislation through requiring these new standards."
Celiac disease affects up to three million Americans.
It causes abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea, and people who have it can suffer weight loss, fatigue, rashes and other long-term medical problems.
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey has waited since 1999 for the new "gluten-free" rule to come to fruition. That is when she first introduced a bill asking for the requirement.
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"These new consumer protections are a victory for families coping with celiac disease," said Lowey. "Nearly a decade after the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law, I am pleased that our federal government has finally set clear, uniform standards that will rein in a fast-growing, unregulated market and provide consumers and families the tools they need to protect their health."
The FDA is giving manufacturers will have a year to comply, but added than many companies that market gluten-free foods already meet the standard.
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