HEALTH: Applauding the FDA’s new gluten-free labeling regulations

Angela Wetzel
Free Press Health Columnist

I’ve become an avid label reader, but only out of necessity. Everything gets turned over, read, scrutinized and re-read to make sure that wheat isn’t in any foods that I buy. My friends will send me pictures of labels of foods that they are using if I am invited over for a meal. Nothing enters my home, or my body, without knowing what is in my food.

Just reading “wheat” on a label isn’t as easy as it seems as wheat (as well as barley and rye) can be disguised in many different ways and can be hidden in items as simple as “modified food starch.” Yes, this can make eating gluten-free tricky!

This past week those of us that eat gluten-free had a huge milestone passed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2004, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act set certain labeling standards for those of us that adhere to a gluten-free diet. It required the Secretary of the Health and Human Services to have labeling standards that would protect those that have celiac disease. The new standards will show what products are truly gluten-free because only those products that have less than 20 parts per million (ppm) will get a gluten-free label. These are the same standards that the European Union adopted last year and the standards that we have been calling for here in the United States.

“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health.”

This is perfect! The more help we can get to make eating and cooking safer, the better it is for our health. Label reading will always be a part of our lives but having things labeled, and knowing they are really within a safe limit, will make things easier.

This law will go into effect on Aug. 2, 2014, giving companies time to be compliant with the new laws. The FDA feels that most of the companies that already label their foods gluten-free will be able to meet with the new federal definition of “gluten-free” already.

So watch for more products to be labeled “gluten-free” and for them to really mean it. I’m excited for a year from now when I know without a doubt that the foods I’m eating truly are gluten-free.

Angela Wetzel has celiac disease and is president of Gluten Free Grand Valley, a support group for those with celiac disease and wheat allergies. Contact her at or visit Gluten Free Grand Valley on Facebook.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.