It seems like the gluten-free trend has been around forever. However, its initial spike to mainstream acknowledgement and trendiness occurred in mid-2009. With the growing awareness of Celiac’s Disease and “gluten intolerance” came the increased focus on gluten and how/why it might not only affect those afflicted with the allergy but those who aren’t. Books like Wheat Belly came out, clearly outlining its “evil” effects in your gut and its direct correlation to poor digestion and the ensuing (dreaded) bloat.
The fitness, nutrition, and food industry was quick to jump on the boat. Soon, bread was frowned upon and “gluten-free” options became more of the norm. Quinoa flour, rice four, oatmeal flour, almond flour…. You name it, they made it readily available. Gluten-free bake shops popped up everywhere and more and more packaged goods were labeled with that illustrious “GLUTEN-FREE”. Since then, it has grown into a $4 billion market.
But what even is gluten, the seemingly most offensive substance on the planet? It is a composite of starch and proteins found in certain grassy grains such as wheat, barley, rye. When eaten by gluten-sensitive people, gluten can trigger the production of antibodies that damage the lining of the small intestine, leading to painful abdominal swelling, weight gain, weight loss, and poor digestion.
Originally, in light of this relatively recent discovery, Congress passed a law in 2004, making steps to protect people with the disease. They called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set standards for how much trace gluten could be found in certain foods labeled “gluten-free”.
Even though that was all the way back in 2004 – and one would think that the standard would have already been set since then – the law that Congress passed was only calling upon the FDA. It was only this past Friday that the FDA finally put their foot down and set the official limit.
The verdict? The limit of gluten must be equal or less than 20 parts per million per product. And, you better believe the packaged food industry will abide by these standards. With a market that has nearly tripled in size since 2008, people are playing close attention.
The FDA has the power to keep companies in line with the newly set standard, threatening to seize products whose gluten level is above the limit, leading to a nationwide recall and thousands (or millions) of dollars lost. And who wants that for their company? Luckily, the agency does not feel such action will be taken as most in the business already comply by that standard.
Whether you actually struggle with a gluten intolerance or simply view gluten as “unhealthy” you can now rest assured of the packaging’s credibility and finally get that peace of mind.