Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published proposed rules for defining “gluten-free” in the labeling of foods, recognizing the growing incidence of celiac disease and the increasing demand for gluten-free foods. Gluten is a protein found in most grains that causes an allergic reaction in people with celiac disease. According to the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America, celiac disease is considered one of the most under-diagnosed diseases, affecting about 1 in every 133 Americans.
In the last several years, many gluten-free bakeries have experienced significant growth for their specialty products. “Enjoy Life has always been committed to the gluten-free market and to ensuring the highest standards for product quality and safety,” says Scott Mandell, President, Enjoy Life Natural Brand. “We agree that setting clear standards for the term gluten-free is crucial to ensure that people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance are not misled and are given truthful information about food ingredients.”
Enjoy Life represents one of many growing gluten-free bakeries in the United States. Founded in 2002, the company recently moved into a new facility that doubled its plant size. The company produces a comprehensive line of gluten- and allergen-free products, including breads, cookies, bagels and snack bars.
Enjoy Life currently labels its foods with a gluten-free Certification Mark from the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). A product carrying the gluten-free Certification Mark assures consumers that the product contains less than 10 parts per million gluten.FDA’s proposed definition of gluten-free prohibits foods from containing:
• An ingredient that is any species of wheat or barley, ofra crossbred hybrid of these grains
• An ingredient derived from a prohibited grain that has not been processed to remove gluten
• An ingredient derived from a prohibited grain that has been processed to remove gluten, if the use of the ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in food
• 20 ppm or more of gluten.
These rules prohibit the use of many of the foundation ingredients of bakery formulas, including wheat (durum wheat, spelt wheat and kamut), rye, barley and crossbred hybrids of these grains (triticale). Oats represent one ingredient not considered prohibitive in the rules, despite conflicting scientific studies about oat’s effect on people with celiac disease.
“Whether oats should or should not be consumed by individuals with celiac disease has been the subject of controversy for more than 50 years,” FDA officials say. “Oats are reported to add variety, taste, satiety, dietary fiber and other essential nutrients to the diet of individuals with celiac disease; thereby making their diet more nutritious and appealing.”
The exclusion of oats from the prohibitive grains list is sure to draw comments from ingredient and food manufacturers. FDA encourages all interested parties to submit written comments to the proposed rule by April 23.