US: FDA issues rules on gluten free
Glutino and Udi's owner Boulder Brands "thrilled" at decision
The US Food and Drug Administration has issued rules governing the composition of products sold as gluten free.
Foods will have to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten to carry the claim. The FDA said the 20ppm limit was "the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools".
It said: "Most people with coeliac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten. This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards."
The rules, announced Friday (2 August), are the first time the level of gluten in foods has been regulated.
US firm Boulder Brands, which owns the Glutino and Udi's brands, said it was "thrilled" by the measure.
"This is bigger than products or brands, this is a consumer safety issue. For Americans with celiac disease, eating gluten-free foods is the only treatment, as there are no medications available to them. Creating a uniform definition for what gluten-free means across all products will enable them to safely and easily navigate through the ever-expanding gluten-free product aisles," Boulder executive vice president TJ McIntyre said.
The American Celiac Disease Alliance, which represents those with the condition, said the regulations will give more certainty to consumers.
"With the labeling requirements announced today, consumers who read the words 'gluten-free' on a label will know they are tied to a strict standard. This will help to ensure that Americans with celiac disease have accurate information to determine if products are safe to consume," Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, said.
Consumer demand for gluten free products has jumped in recent years. Data on the size of the market varies; Euromonitor said sales were worth US$1.35bn in 2011, up 12.5% on the year before.
The growth in the US market for gluten-free foods has been buoyed by the higher diagnosis of coeliac disease but also other factors ranging from diets that promote a lower carbohydrate intake to celebrities accrediting their weight loss to gluten-free products.
The expansion of the market has attracted international manufacturers including the UK's Genius Foods, Italy-based Dr Schaer and Australia's Freedom Foods Group.
The new regulation takes the US in line with other markets. The 20ppm limit is in place in the UK, the EU and in Canada. Australia's limit states a product must contain "no detectable gluten" but some of the country's food manufacturers and leading coeliac pressure group wants the threshold raised to 20ppm. The idea has prompted debate in Australia, with Freedom Foods Group opposing the move.
Click here for our July interview with Australia's Freedom Foods Group, which is working to expand its business in North America.
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