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all rules there are exceptions. Occasionally a food product may contain wheat protein or oats and still be labeled "gluten-free."
If a product containing oats is labeled "gluten-free" then it is made using specially produced oats that have not been contaminated with wheat, barley, or rye. Remember, the reason most oats are avoided on the gluten-free diet is because of contamination. Oats themselves do not contain gluten. In fact, due to contamination issues with oats, you should not eat any oat product that is not labeled "gluten-free."
Occasionally, you may come across a product labeled "gluten-free" that also has the word "wheat" in the ingredient list or Contains statement. How can this be true? Under FALCPA, if a food product contains any amount of wheat protein the word "wheat" must be included in the ingredient list or Contains statement. Under the FDA's proposed rule for use of the term gluten-free on food labels, if a product containing wheat protein contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten the product may be labeled "gluten-free."
Rest assured this is a teeny tiny amount. Studies conducted on the amount of gluten that may be safely consumed without causing damage to the intestine indicate that this amount of gluten is safe.
You may be wondering about foods not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration - meat, poultry, and egg products. These foods are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA is currently working on rules for allergen labeling similar to FALCPA. Until this rule is finalized the USDA encourages manufacturers to clearly name allergens, including wheat on food labels. This is voluntary and not mandatory at this point.
Even with food products regulated by the USDA, there are very few ingredients that should cause you any concern. Modified food starch and dextrin may give you pause if their source is not named. You may want to find another product that does not contain these ingredients or contact the manufacturer to verify gluten-free status.
To read more about The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act and the Food and Drug Administration's proposed rule for gluten-free labeling, please see the following web pages:
Tricia Thompson, M.S., RD is a nutrition consultant, author and speaker specializing in celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. She is the author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide published (McGraw-Hill) and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten-Free Eating (Penguin Group). For more information, visit www.glutenfreedietitian.com.
For a copy of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide click here.
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