FDA Finalizes Voluntary Gluten-Free Labeling Standards

In August, the FDA finalized itsrule on voluntary “gluten-free” labeling, allowing handlers to label their products as gluten-free, providing the products qualify for the claim by complying withFDA’s legal definition of the term “gluten-free.” Gluten is a storage protein naturally found in wheat, rye, barley and hybrids of these grains. Gluten is also found in ingredients derived from these grains and has very harmful health effects if ingested by individuals with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance. The new rule was issued underFALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004), which initiated mandatory declaration of the eight major food allergens on labels, and sets a quantifiable standard for foods labeled as gluten-free. The ruling allows manufacturers/handlers to make a “gluten-free” declaration on labels of foods that are inherently free of gluten or that contain less than 20 ppm (parts per million, or Relevance to the Almond Industry Almonds are naturally gluten-free; however, manufacturers who package foods that are naturally gluten-free (such as almonds), must still ensure that their products have less than 20 ppm of gluten from cross-contact or from the addition of other ingredients. Processing that adds other ingredients (as may occur in the case of flavored almonds, for example) including gluten-containing grains or their derivatives, or that brings the almonds in contact with these ingredients (cross-contact) may result in gluten levels in excess of 20 ppm, disqualifying the product from using the gluten-free claim. FDA does not require handlers to test their products in order to bear the claim; however, handlers are responsible for ensuring that their gluten-free labeled products comply with the regulation. A variety of quality-control and product testing options are available. Compliance Deadline: Aug. 5, 2014 Handlers already using “gluten-free” label claims will have one year following publication of the rule to ensure that products are in compliance or to remove the term from labels.

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