I’ve been following the gluten-free diet for celiac disease for 7 months now. Ive been fascinated with the question, “What makes a food gluten-free?” As of August 5, 2014, foods labeled “gluten-free” must comply with the following FDA regulations:
- the food either is inherently gluten free or
- does not contain an ingredient that is:
- a gluten-containing grain (e.g., spelt wheat) or
- derived from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour) or
- derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat starch), if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food.
- also, any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food must be less than 20 ppm.
Gluten Free Watchdog does a great job of testing food products on the market to ensure they are compliant with FDA regulations. Some foods test at less than 5ppm, while others are over the limit of 20ppm.
I kept thinking about it… what does 20ppm look like in practical terms? I found some great examples:
- One penny in $10,000
- One minute in two years
- One dime in a one-mile-high stack of pennies
- A slice of bread cut into one million pieces. (You can have 20!)
When you imagine how tiny 20ppm is, it’s easier to see how “cheating” on the gluten-free diet results in intestinal changes and uncomfortable digestive symptoms. And cross contamination is a real issue, both at home and while eating out. Crumbs really do make a difference.