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  1. Food Labeling & Nutrition

Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods

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An estimated 3 million people in the United States have celiac disease. In people with celiac disease, foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. Such damage limits the ability of people with celiac disease to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other very serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, slow growth, infertility, miscarriages, and intestinal cancers.

On August 2, 2013, FDA issued a final rule defining “gluten-free” for food labeling, which is helping consumers, especially those living with celiac disease, be confident that items labeled “gluten-free” meet a defined standard for gluten content. “Gluten-free” is a voluntary claim that can be used by food manufacturers on food labels if they meet all the requirements of the regulations.

On August 12, 2020, the FDA issued a final rule on the gluten-free labeling of fermented or hydrolyzed foods. It covers foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, cheese, green olives, FDA-regulated beers and wines (e.g., generally those with less than 7 percent alcohol), and hydrolyzed plant proteins used to improve flavor or texture in processed foods such as soups, sauces, and seasonings. The rule does not change the definition of “gluten-free” but establishes compliance requirements for these hydrolyzed and fermented foods. It also includes a discussion of how FDA will verify compliance for distilled foods such as vinegar.

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