Welcome to one of the most heated topics on thesavvyceliac.com and in the celiac community in general. If you’re new to celiac disease and the gluten-free diet now is the time to get educated about a proposal that is likely to become a US standard and may affect the way you shop for gluten-free food. If you’re a veteran, you may enjoy a peek into the passion of your fellow celiacs.

Recently thesavvyceliac.com conducted a survey of celiacs and what they think about the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed standard for voluntarily labeling gluten-free products. The FDA proposal goes along the lines of the current Codex standard in Europe; anything that is labeled gluten-free must test below 20 Parts per Million (PPM) level of gluten. – Yes, bottom line, in this proposal, some products that will claim a gluten-free status, could actually have some (albeit a miniscule amount) of gluten in it.

And survey participants really sounded off! Here’s a quick sample:

“Too much of the 20 ppm foods each day WILL GET YOU INTO TROUBLE AS A CELIAC!! – I don’t care what the FDA says!!!”

“No, it is still gluten that is being ingested. You would not say ‘peanut-free’ and put a small amount [of peanuts] in.”

“I’d appreciate knowing ANY ppm so I can make an informed choice, if I did consume manufactured foods…”

“BELOW 20 ppm could be anywhere from 0 to 19.999…ppm. Scientific studies have shown this is safe.”

“20 ppm has worked in Europe. I think we should be satisfied that the FDA actually made a good decision…”

As you can see, the response runs the gamut from supporting the proposed standard to being extremely against it. It is definitely a hot topic we’ll be exploring here on thesavvyceliac.com starting Monday. I am not an expert on this topic by any means. I just feel it is an important subject to discuss as the FDA’s decision nears (should happen this summer).

What is 20 ppm?

Nancy Lapid wrote a good definition of Parts per Million which explained in a slightly more technical way what ppm stands for in the gluten world. In the book Living Gluten-Free for Dummies authors Danna Korn and Alessio Fasano M.D. describes a safe amount of gluten is “…a fraction of a crumb. A teensy weensy fraction of a teensy weensy crumb.” Both definitions could help you better understand the amount we’re talking about as we move ahead in future articles.

Exploring the hot topic

But what happens if that fraction of a “teensy weensy crumb” (or 20 ppm) is consumed several times in one day? How much “gluten-free” food at 20 ppm is too much? Who is the FDA really catering to: the gluten-sensitive & celiacs or big business? Why can’t 20 ppm be a good federal standard? Isn’t it better to have companies be accountable for their ingredients and gluten-free claims, with this proposed gluten standard?

These are all questions you have asked when commenting on this survey. We will do our best to at least explore them. They may not all be answered, but we will try to look into some of these issues and bring out your concerns.

See you Monday!

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6 Responses to “Celiacs Passionate about FDA’s Proposed 20 PPM Gluten Standard”

  1. Anyone who is interested may want to take a look at this article, which makes clear that there is NO safe amount of gluten for a celiac. Thom, S., Longo, B., Running, A., Ashley, J. (2009). Celiac disease: A guide to successful diagnosis and treatment. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 5(4), 244-253.

  2. I have also read that there is no safe amount of gluten for celiacs. I have experimented with gluten-free products, and have decided to stay clear of them after experiencing some adverse reactions. Bottom line is that if you eat as close to nature as possible (i.e. whole foods), you will be much better off and feel better, too. It’s best to stay away from grains as the body treats it as a sugar, which leads to other issues such as obesity, diabetes, and inflammation. Also, the human body hasn’t evolved and adapted to be able to digest these grains.

  3. I agree with the above two commenters. My own trial and errors have shown me that there is no safe amount of gluten. I’d much rather the FDA require specific labeling rather than allowing 20ppm to be sold as Gluten Free. Anything less is, given my experience, irresponsible – and benefiting the manufacturers more than the consumer.

  4. Had crackers processed in a plant that processes wheat…it was labeled GF….read later it was tested <20 ppm…that is what leaad me here. I dont usually eat food processed with wheat, not feeling well and I wont mke that mistake again.

    Be careful people and take care.

  5. No amount of gluten is safe for me. I’ve tried a beer with 3ppm and it set me off. This proposal is dangerous as it will make it much more difficult to eat as Gluten-free labeling will no longer be trustworthy.

    There have been several other occasions when I’ve checked a label that says in big letters “gluten free” and tiny fine print in a different location “meets federal guidelines to be labeled as gluten-free.” What, is tge FDA trying to hurt me? Gluten-free and very low gluten are two very different things, and the latter means a life of celiac symptoms.

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